Back in 2009, life was a bit stressful in the Yoga Nerd household. My husband’s business was still finding its feet and he wasn’t taking a paycheck. I wasn’t making enough to cover all the bills, so our credit card debt was rising.
Driving to a massage gig one day, my mind was spinning on all of these stresses. My stress level was rising with every spin around my fears. It was very uncomfortable and not helpful at all. And I was very aware it was not fair to my clients to receive massages from a person whose mind was spinning in stress and fear. I needed to do something to change my state of mind.
I had heard from a Ted Talk that what you do on the outside can change how you feel on the inside. I needed to be happy and positive for my clients. So, I tried to stop the negative thoughts by just smiling.
There I was driving to work with a big stupid smile on my face. We’re talking creepy clown smile big. I mean, my face started to hurt a bit because it was such a big stupid smile. At first the negative thoughts kept going. Then a shift happened. It was actually quite remarkable. I suddenly starting thinking of the bright side of the situation. “Hey, you are still somehow making it work. You are still paying everything on time. You haven’t missed a bill or paid a late fee. That’s something. That will definitely help your credit in the end. You are somehow making it work. You could be in a lot worse situation. Seriously.” And, yes, the positive voice made it sound like I was talking to myself.
But my mood had lifted. I felt hopeful again. We know that what we feel on the inside shows on the outside. The reverse is also true: what we do on the outside affects how we feel on the inside. And smiling is a powerful tool for both the inside and the outside. Let me explain.
First the science part. When you smile, a bunch of good chemicals are released into your body. The brain releases neuropeptides that fight off stress. This is good because stress can cause serious damage to the body. Stress is such a health hazard that it deserves its own post. (Foreshadowing to next week’s topic!) Your brain also releases happy mood transmitters, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These not only make you happier, they lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Taking the “happy mood chemicals” a step further, serotonin is an anti-depressant. A lot of anti-depressant medications increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. This means a smile is just as powerful as a pharmaceutical drug. That’s superpower powerful!
So, that’s how smiling affects you on the inside. How about the outside?
Smiling makes you more attractive. Tons of studies have shown that. (Unless you are doing the creep clown smile, which is just creepy.) But more importantly, smiles are so powerful they can affect the people around you. Smiles are literally contagious. Studies have shown that when you show a picture of someone smiling, they have a hard time not smiling. If you ask someone to frown while looking at a person smiling, it takes a conscious effort to do so. So, technically you have a superpower if you choose to use it. You can make the world a happier place by smiling. That makes you a hero!
But we don’t smile very often, do we?
Years ago for a bachelorette party, I attended a burlesque show. I was hesitant about going but I was so happy I did. The women dancing smiled the whole time and looked so free. None of those women looked like models and yet they were happy with their bodies. It was really inspiring. Half way through the evening I realized my face hurt. I had been smiling none stop the entire time. It kinda made me sad that those muscles were so out of shape. But I was also glad to know that I could be so happy.
In yoga class, no one ever smiles. I’ve even asked them to smile and use their superpower. It never happens. Well, I shouldn’t say never. In all these years, only two people have smiled when I suggested the do so. One of them was a man whose wife had just finished cancer treatment with success, they had retired and just bought a house in Hawaii. Yeah, I’d be smiling too!
I’m not sure why we don’t smile more often. It’s something to think about. And it’s something to be aware of. But what I do know is that smiling is a superpower. And now you know. You have a superpower. Smiling can change your mood. Smiling can change the mood of the people around you.
You have a tool to change the world! Smile on you crazy diamond!
Follow up to this week’s blog:
I wanted to share a little something I discovered. I used “Smiling is a Superpower” as the theme in my yoga classes last week. As usual, really nobody smiled. I had one person smile during Dancer pose, but that was it. Except for one other person…
I was telling the yogis in class that if they found themselves struggling, maybe try smiling. One of my advanced yogis said just before her least favorite pose, “I’m going to try smiling all through this pose.”
And she did. It was marvelous!
What we discovered was her balance was more off when she smiled. She said it was really weird. But, she did feel lighter while she smiled. So, not only does smiling make the pose harder, it makes the pose more enjoyable. That sounds like a win – win, especially for someone who needs a challenge in their practice!
She didn’t smile during the second set of that pose. Or the rest of the class.
Oh well. At least she tried!
Why do you think we don’t smile as much as we could? Do you consciously try to smile? Now that you know of your superpower, do you think you will? Let me know your thoughts below. I think the whole Yoga Nerd community could benefit from each other’s insight on this important question. And stay tuned for next weeks post on Stress!
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