Smiling Meditation

I want to introduce you to a simple and effective way you can practice meditation in your day-to-day life. Meditation does not only have to happen secluded in a dark room or on a retreat. It can happen right in your current life and during your day. You can experience the benefits here and now. Smiling meditation is an amazingly simple, effective and also fun way to incorporate meditation into your life. How to do it? You just try to keep up a light smile (the guys at Dhammasukha Meditation Center where I got this idea from say to smile “with your mind, eyes, lips and with your heart”) throughout your day. When you lose it you notice and bring it back again. This is really simple but it accomplishes many things:

  1. You strengthen your ability to remember to be mindful* (of your own behaviour and keeping an intention)
  2. Smiling has a positive impact on your and other people’s mood. It makes your mind lighter
  3. As smiling and having a lighter mind becomes your setpoint (if you practice diligently) you will more easily recognize when you tense up or worry, creating mental problems for yourself and being aware of this will enable you to release those states and not dwell on them (talking about depression). By noticing that your smile is gone you become aware. When you bring back your smile you help yourself to release those states.

*Actually mindfulness is most relevant when we are mindful of our behaviour in body, speech and mind and recognize when we are doing things that harm us or that leave us with a bad feeling (thinking negative thoughts about someone else, insulting people, acting with anger, treating ourself badly etc.). Mindfulness of the breath can calm the mind but mindfulness of the nature and effects of our actions is more important than just mindfulness of movement or the breath if we want to gain more stability, clarity and peace of mind.
These points are achieved by simply making a determination to smile and to keep this smile.
In this article on Psychology Today there is some more scientific information about what smiling accomplishes. The physical act of smiling has a measurable effect on your brain. The reason this works is that by smiling you are creating a background to your usual mental activity (like a contrast). As this contrast is always the same and does not change it kind of shows you the things that do change (your mental states/moods, thoughts) more clearly. Practicing this meditation will help you to get a better overall sense of what your mind is doing throughout the day which will enable you to nudge it in a more wholesome direction. In addition to the “chemical” implications (release of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin) that one can scientifically observe in the brain there is the added benefit of you learning how to establish a new mental habit, which can help you in other ares of your life. Also it can give you a very positive experience of making a change in your life which will motivate you to change other things in your life for the better as well. It can be a great spring board to get you out of a depressive slump or a lack of motivation and low self esteem. It is really as powerful as it seems simple.

How to do it:
In the beginning first make an overall determination to try this for 1 day, 3 days, a week and see what happens. Then on each day you are doing it pick a specific time window where you will be putting in extra effort (this is so that the new habit doesn’t just get lost in your other habitual behaviours and daily stresses). Like on your way to work when you are commuting, while walking or taking the public transport or driving with your car. Doing this is important because this way you will develop this habit very effectively. It takes a certain amount of intensity to affect your old conditioning and make an impact with the new behaviour.
In the begining it is going to build slowly and the more you do it the more you are going to smile and the more you are going to experience the amazing benefits of this simple exercise.
I suggest you just give it a try and see what happens for yourself. I look forward to you having a good experience with this and to you sharing what it has done for you in your life so that it may encourage others to also do it. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section or via the Contact Form.

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