Smile. The benefits of smiling are many. One benefit is that a smile can brighten up someone else’s day whether it is a friend or a stranger. Smiling is a language all to itself; it is a language of love. Think about the last time a stranger smiled at you and how you felt. Chances are that you felt pretty good. In the same way with a smile we can help other people feel good too.
When we smile we not only brighten up the day of someone else but we ourselves become happier. We begin to dwell in a state of love and inner peace. Think for yourself of the happiest people that you know. Do they not smile frequently? When we smile, we radiate peace and love and people tend to become far more attracted to us than otherwise.
While we all would like to smile more, it is easy to get caught up in the routines and dilemmas of daily life and we often do not even take the time to smile. How then can we consciously develop this habit of smiling?
The renowned Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh offers some profound methods that can help us to remember how to smile. One such method is conscious breathing. We can mentally repeat: “Breathing in, I am calm. Breathing out, I smile.” Personally I find it easier to simplify the technique to mentally repeating the word “calm” with each in-breath and “smile” with each out-breath. Practicing in this manner for even five to ten minutes we automatically become calmer, increasingly present, and we smile naturally. Try it for yourself I guarantee that you will be surprised at how easily you smile and how amazing it feels. According to Hanh, “The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.”
Another method that Thich Nhat Hanh invites us to try is to hang a reminder in our rooms to smile when we wake up. This reminder can be a branch, a leaf, a painting, or some inspiring words. It can be anything as long as it carries the message to us to smile upon waking. We can hang this reminder in the window, above the bed, or anywhere where we will notice it upon waking. Smiling to begin the day can help us to approach the day with serenity and inner joy. After we develop the practice of smiling upon waking we will no longer need a reminder; it will become a natural part of our daily lives. We will find that love and happiness have entered our lives and are there to greet us when we wake up in the morning.
There are also physiological benefits to smiling. When we smile we relax hundreds of muscles in our face. Smiling relieves stress and tension. Stress and tension tend to store themselves in our bodies and often times can result in our neck, shoulders, and our back becoming increasingly tight and stiff. By smiling we release stress and tension thereby reducing the stiffness in these areas of the body.
These are just some of the many benefits of smiling. I sincerely hope that you will try the prescribed exercises for developing your smile. Just as a good body needs to be developed at the gym and a good mind developed by studying the same way a good smile needs to be developed through practice. According to Hanh, someone who is wearing a smile is showing a sign that they are masters of themselves. So please, become a master of yourself and smile.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. The Miracle of Mindfulness. Trans. and Ed. Mobi Ho. Boston: Beacon Press, 1999. Press.