One of my favorite present-moment practices I like to share with people, is to smile. Now to clarify, practicing mindfulness is not necessarily about always feeling happy. In fact, once we start to practice on a consistent practice, we often find that our more difficult emotions that we shy away from have space to finally express. But the gift of mindfulness is that we can simply observe whatever we are experiencing with a gentle, non-judgmental attitude, and simply come back to a point of focus.
So in this case, smiling is less an expression of our emotional state, but a tool to help us focus. It shows up as a natural by product when we are feeling happy about something, but can be equally effective to use as a tool when we are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. You see, smiling releases endorphins that reduce stress and help us feel better. Even the act of faking a smile produces the same physiology benefits that can literally lead to feeling happier. This gives new meaning to the term to “grin and bear it” where our smile becomes a tool to be more present with whatever the moment at hand brings. Below is a simple practice that will have you smiling from the inside out.
Mindfulness Practice: Smile
Step 1: Pause where you are and take a couple deep breaths.
Step 2: Now bring your awareness to your heart center and imagine yourself smiling inside. Perhaps you notice some warmth, or noticing the body reacting in a certain way, perhaps you feel a softening.
Step 3: Feel the smile spread to your eyes, across your face and throughout your body. Imagine every cell in your body smiling softly.
Step 4: Notice any sensations that arise and rest for a few moments in this smiling stillness. Invite this awareness and curiosity into your day.
“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” – Mother Teresa