"Come back to yourself. Return to the voice of your body. Trust that much.” (Geneen Roth)

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Turn That Frown Upside Down

August 1, 2011

Are you smiling?   Your life may depend upon  your answer.

A recent study finds that people who are captured smiling in photos live an average of 7 years or more after their non-smiling counterparts have passed on.  How intensely you smile is also a factor.  Smiles were rated in intensity as follows:

“no smile (1), partial smile (only movement of muscles around the mouth; i.e., only contraction of the zygomatic major muscles; 2), or full (Duchenne) smile (movement of muscles around the mouth and corners of the eyes; i.e., contraction of both zygomatic and orbicularis oculi muscle;”1

Other positive results of note that were experienced by the “smilers” (these quotes are mine) were longevity in marital relationships and professional success.  The benefits of smiling have been known long before this study was conducted. If you aren’t aware of what this simple habit can do for you, then you should know that:

  1. Smiling makes us more attractive.  We are drawn to those who smile and they are drawn to us.
  2. Smiling tricks us into a better mood.
  3. Smiling improves our immune system.
  4. Smiling makes us look younger by lifting the muscles of the face.  Also, see #1 above.
  5. Smiling has been proven to measurably lower blood pressure.
  6. Smiling is a natural drug.  Smiling releases endorphins, your body’s natural pain killer, and serotonin, your natural stress-reducer and anti-depressant.
  7. Smiling makes you appear more confident.  “Smilers” are more apt to be promoted or to close the sale.
  8. Smiling is contagious.  Beware, when you smile you encourage smiling in others. What you send out has a very good chance of coming back to you!

Real, full, or “Duchenne” smiles use the whole face – lips, eyes, cheeks.  In my non-scientific way, I would say that these are smiles from your heart and soul, your whole self.  Try this smiling exercise for yourself.

  • Take a deep breath in, all the way to the bottom of your abdomen.  Let it out slowly.
  • Breathing normally, begin by forming a frown.  Really purse those lips together.  Tighten the muscles of the forehead.  Scrinch up your eyes.  Blow your breath in through your now.  Blow that breath out hard.
  • Relax the muscles.  Take a deep breath in.
  • Make a small (no teeth) grin.  Let your breath out slowly through your almost-closed lips.
  • Breathe in and out normally.  How do you feel?
  • Now smile.  Big!  Sparkle your eyes.  How do you feel now?

When it seems that we can do little to make positive change in the world, often times it is the smallness of our smile that makes all the difference.  Turn that frown upside down and smile.  Big!

Wishing you room to breathe, a.

1 – “Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity,” Ernest L. Abel and Michael L. Kruger, Psychological Science.  February 2010.

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