The alchemy of smiling

imagesIt’s easy enough to do.  No one teaches you how to smile.  There are no courses that teach smiling.  This behavior is built into our DNA.  Babies are known to smile in the womb and in their infancy.  These smiles are simply reflexive facial movements, but as early as six weeks of age babies smile consciously – at first, usually in response to seeing a parent’s face.  Children generally smile freely and easily, with grins of delight and pleasure.  Grown-ups, on the other hand, tend to be more reserved and less spontaneous about smiling.  With their personae securely in place, adults may sometimes flash calculated smiles — to gain approval, to win favor, even to deceive.

Do you realize that smiling is catalytic?  It can change your internal chemistry.  Now, for the smile to pack this kind of wallop, it needs to be an authentic, high-voltage kind of smile, not merely a half-hearted grin or a pinched, tight-mouthed grimace.  You have to really feel the source of the smile within your being.   You have to connect with the source of your happiness, pleasure and delight.  And you need to be present, in the now, to connect fully with that which causes your eyes to twinkle, the corners of your mouth to lift and your lips to part – possibly setting the stage for a giggle, guffaw or hearty laugh to add to your merriment.

Whatever life path you tread, smiling is an essential tool for your journey.  Smiling increases the release of endorphins in your body, perks up your brain chemistry and lifts your mood.  Smiling also relaxes your body by releasing tension.  These effects brighten your energy field and recharge your immune function.  Additionally, smiling makes you more radiant and therefore more magnetic.  You draw to yourself more positive possibilities.  All in all, smiling is a no-lose proposition, so engage in some serious work in psychoneuroimmunology: smile.

(This is taken from my book, Balancing Act: Reflections, Meditations, and Coping Strategies for Today’s Fast-Paced Whirl.)

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2 Responses to The alchemy of smiling

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell August 1, 2015 at 8:50 pm #

    Wow! Thank you, dear Na’ama, for such an in-depth explanation of how babies learn to smile and the impact of genuine smiling. You have added so much to the post. You are the best! Much love

  2. Naama August 1, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    Yes, we are social being, and smiling is one of the ways to generate and strengthen relational bonds and release oxytocin–the hormone of connection and care. Babies’ learning to smile is a result of mirror neuron activation–babies who are not smiled at do not know how to smile. We are coded to LEARN how to smile, but we can only do so if we’re taught how through the genuine loving smiles of adoration showered on us as very young babies. Babies who are loved, smiled at, cooed at, clucked and fussed over, sensitively cared for–smile readily and smile a lot. Their smiles activate their caregivers’ mirror neurons, too, and a mutually reinforcing loveliness ensues.
    Being smiled at often generates a smile in return, as long as the connotation of the smile is pleasant (babies who are not smiled at might find smiles threatening, odd, unusual, scary, confusing … and it takes specific therapies to help restore connection and communication to try and help form the pathways for attachment that can reinforce a different and healthier connotation of smiles).
    Smiling indeed brings on all the good things when it was learned as part of an exchange of goodness: connection, comfort, satisfaction, communication, care, being loved, being accepted, being seen.
    For those who did not have the opportunity to learn these kinds of smiles, we need to be aware of the need to build loops of connection first … because smiling alone may not bring up the same neural connections and neurotransmitters in someone who learned to smile to avoid pain, or learned to smile emptily, or for whom a smile is scary.
    Does this mean to not smile at people unless we know their history? Absolutely not. I think we could all smile more genuine smiles. They are nourishing in many ways to many people, and in different ways to different people. The intention of kindness is never wasted, and if smiling brings on a benefit to ourselves, then all the better for it. The only caveat is to understand that not all smiling is created equal or does the same for everyone. If you find it hard to feel what smiles might be for some–it is okay–there are plenty of ways to be kind and radiate care to others and there is no ‘wrong way’ to smile.
    Hesitant smiles, careful smiles, worried smiles, half-smiles, iffy-smiles, not-sure-smiles, not-feeling-it-smiles: it is all good if the intention for connection and kindness is there.