“Your face is going to crack if you don’t stop frowning,” my dad used to tease Mom. “Why don’t you put your happy face back on? It looks so much better than that scowl.”
Mom puckered her lipstick-red lips and forced a tooth-filled smile across her face. My parents would burst into laughter.
My siblings and I called Dad the “smile police.” If he caught us with a grumpy look, he’d coax a grin out of us.
Dad said something magical happens when we smile. But what was it, we wondered?
The Science of Smiling
According to an article in Neuronation.com, when you smile, the brain and bloodstream flood with the feel-good chemicals dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These natural painkillers relax the muscles in our body. They also work to reduce stress by lowering our heart rate and blood pressure. We feel happy.
Babies seem to instinctively know the value of a smile as they fill the room with oodles of coos. Their giggles become contagious.
As we move from childhood into adulthood—with the increased stress and strain of responsibilities—we often forget to smile. Maybe if we practice what Dad preached, we might avoid becoming a grumpy old goodger. But how?
Smiling as Meditation Practice
Ray, a friend, recently told me he likes to keep his quiet time with God simple. So, he uses smiling as a meditation practice. After he gets his morning cup of coffee, lights a candle, and sits in his favorite chair, he closes his eyes and smiles for ten to twenty minutes.
The tense muscles in his face ease. His jaw unlocks. Eyebrows soften. His spirit lightens. Scattered thoughts settle.
He basks in the feeling of relaxation. Whenever his thoughts run rampant like scattered mice, he gently returns attention to his smile.
Ray carries his smiling practice into the day, he says. When stressed while driving or at the office, he takes a “smile break.” It lightens his mood. Compassion flows through his body. These smile breaks allow him to reconnect with himself and God. And the self-love he experiences spills over into how he treats others during the day.
Some say the magic of a smile is the Holy Spirit’s healing energy within us. It’s the Divine Spark of Love that triggers the relaxation response in our bodies and floods our emotions and spirits with compassion and wisdom.
Tao Master Mantak Chia teaches the Inner Smile Meditation. While meditating with eyes closed, he suggests we draw attention to our vital organs—the heart, eyes, lungs, etc., and simply smile at them, thanking them for the on-going job they perform to sustain and enhance our lives. In doing so, we touch the healing power of inner gratitude. We thank the Creator for the gift of our very lives. Perhaps the Creator even smiles with us.
What’s a smile worth? It’s the priceless wealth of a life lived increasingly aware of Divine Essence—the Presence of God—in each moment of our lives. And it bears the fruit of inner peace that surpasses understanding.
—brian j plachta