A Smile Begins with a Prayer
When life feels too difficult, when you're too exhausted, and especially when you wonder if you'll ever smile again, start with a simple prayer asking God to help you smile.
Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you.
Psalm 86:4, NLT
Why Are Smiles Contagious?
Have you ever noticed that when you see someone yawn, it’s nearly impossible to keep yourself from yawning, too? From infancy, your brain reacts to facial feedback. That’s why when you smile at an infant, the child will smile back at you.
The part of your brain involving the unconscious mind will automatically imitate the facial expressions it sees. This is known as mimicry or automatic mimicry. You might also hear it called mood contagion or emotional contagion.
Your brain will cause you to subconsciously mirror or mimic the expression of faces you see. This is a proven scientific fact. Show someone pictures of people frowning or smiling and their facial expression will adjust to match. This means smiles are contagious.
The Ripple Effect of a Smile
A smile costs nothing but pays big dividends. When one person smiles, each person who sees that smile will smile, too. And each person who sees those smiles, will also smile.
A smile spreads faster than COVID-19.
PASS IT ON!
Your Smile Has Superpowers
In addition to the other people affected by your smile, that silly grin on your face performs mighty acts on your mind, emotions, and even your body.
A basic web search will turn up dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of benefits to smiling. Let’s highlight a few:
A smile improves your looks and even makes you look younger.
A smile makes you seem likable and approachable to others, so their positive response to you will improve your social confidence.
A smile is linked to longevity and success in life, probably because it makes you feel better and increases your confidence.
A smile relieves anxiety and eases depression.
A smile lowers your blood pressure.
A smile improves your mood to match your smile.
A smile changes your voice, so smile when you answer the phone.
A smile releases brain-chemicals that actually improve your immune system.
A smile (or the chemicals it releases) acts as a natural pain killer.
A smile makes your brain happier than eating chocolate. I’m not making this up. Here’s what the writer at Psychology Today had to say:
Teach Yourself to Smile
If you’re trying to improve your mood, it’s imperative for you to find reasons to smile several times a day. How many times? At least once per hour, I’d say.
But what if you’re depressed and can’t muster a smile?
I’ve been there. Whoa, have I been there!
Okay, I have an experiment for you. According to Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good, the posture of your muscles triggers your brain to react to a smile. He suggests putting a pen or pencil in your mouth and holding it there for a few minutes, several times a day. The shape of your mouth around the pencil uses the same muscles as smiling.
The pencil trick does two things: One, it causes your brain to detect a smile and release “happy chemicals” and, two, it actually trains your muscles to smile. When you train your muscles to smile, you are more likely to actually do so spontaneously.
When I was depressed and heard this, I was skeptical. I wanted to prove him wrong because it seemed silly that something so simple could improve my mood. I held the pencil in my mouth a few times a day. The first couple days I didn’t notice much. But by the third day, I caught myself smiling spontaneously and discovered my mood was somewhat better. It really does work. Try it for yourself.
Wear a Half-Smile
When you want to feel a little bit better, but can't muster a full smile (or it seems insincere), wear a half-smile. It offers a pleasant neutral facial expression when you're around others and it creates a subtle lift in your spirits, too.
Tighten your face muscles and then relax them.
Keep your teeth slightly apart.
Now bring up the corners of your mouth until you feel them (not a full smile).
Hold this as you inhale and exhale three times.
Practice maintaining your half-smile as you go throughout your day.
It can take time, but a half-smile can improve your mood. Give it a try.
As part of your daily smile therapy, it’s important to look at smiling faces. Spending a few minutes looking at smiling faces will inevitably make the corners of your mouth turn up.
When I’m depressed, I set aside time to watch videos of babies and puppies. No matter how bad I feel, babies make me smile. Afterwards, I feel better—more relaxed and resilient.
For your convenience, I’ve assembled a gallery of pictures of people smiling. Browse these images for a quick pick-me-up. It works.
Joy Will Come
I can say from experience that sometimes it feels as if you will never smile again.
Hang in there! Lean into God. Embrace him and his love for you.
Joy will come. Be patient, my friend. Joy will come.
Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come.
Your faces will glisten with glory.
You’ll never wear that shame-face again.
Psalm 34:5, TPT