Your Hidden Feel-Good Power & How To Use It

By SARAH MATHEWS and JANIE LOUBSER

Reading Time:  5mins

 Image via Pinterest:  @tinygirlgang

Image via Pinterest: @tinygirlgang

 

WHAT IF WE TOLD YOU THIS WOULD MAKE YOU HEALTHIER? THAT BY DOING IT MORE YOU CAN HELP REDUCE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE AND INCREASE YOUR OVERALL WELL-BEING AND LIFESPAN? WHAT IF WE TOLD YOU IT HELPS REDUCE THE LEVEL OF STRESS ENHANCING HORMONES (LIKE CORTISOL, ADRENALINE AND DOPAMINE) AND INCREASES YOUR MOOD ENHANCING ENDORPHINS? WELL, EVERYBODY IS BORN WITH THIS ABILITY (3D ULTRASOUNDS EVEN SHOW IT DEVELOP WHEN BABIES ARE IN THE WOMB) AND THE BEST PART OF IT ALL, RESEARCH STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT IT MAKES YOU APPEAR EVEN MORE ATTRACTIVE AND CAPABLE TO OTHERS TOO. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS...

 

SMILE

 

SETTING THE SCENE

Charlie Chaplin was onto something when he composed the instrumental song "SMILE" for the 1936 movie, Modern Times. In the final scene, it plays while Chaplin comforts co-star, Paulette Goddard, an orphan girl his character befriends. Before they set off down the road he pauses and points to the corners of her mouth indicating that she should smile. The lyrics to this now famous song "smile, though your heart is aching... smile, even though it's breaking..." were only added in 1954 by lyricists John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons (clearly inspired by this scene) and Nat King Cole's original recording made it a household name, inspiring covers by Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand and Josh Groban. 

THE LYRICS 

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just
Smile

 

FINDING FEEL GOOD VIBES

When we're feeling blue and overwhelmed with stress, it might seem silly or disingenuous to slap a grin on your face, but something chemical happens in your brain. Think about it, when you're happy you smile and when you smile you're happy.  'The brain senses that you're using your zygomatic muscle - the one used for smiling - and thinks "Hey, I must be happy."' So, even if you were frowning to begin with or in a bad mood, the facial feedback theory suggests that your mood will improve... it makes you feel good! 

There is a ton of research to back the measurable impact smiling has on our overall well-being. Charles Darwin (better known for his theory on evolution) also studied the expression of emotions and claimed: "even the stimulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds..." back in 1872! Essentially, since the dawn of time, we have been able to use something as simple as a smile to trick our brains into feeling better, especially when we're feeling down. 

 

KIDS GET IT

There is a cool TED Talk by Ron Gutman titled "The Hidden Power of Smiling" that claims children smile up to 400 times per day. In the same talk, Gutman shares research findings that showed "smiling is as stimulating as receiving up to 16,000 pounds in cash, that's like 25,000 USD a smile. Think about it... 25 x 400... a lot of kids feel like Mark Zuckerburg every single day!"  Because smiling is contagious - our brains suppress control over our facial muscles and trigger this response in us - it explains why many of us often smile a lot more around children. Truth be told, adults need to lighten up and smile more! That same study showed only a third of adults smile more than 20 times a day and 14% of adults smile less than 5 times a day... were you even aware of how you are limiting the amount of time we can feel amazing in a day?!

 

UNLOCK YOUR HIDDEN FEEL-GOOD POWERS WITH THIS EXERCISE

It's relatively easy to be mindful and present when we're doing things we enjoy, but it's so much harder to feel good when we are stressed and worried. "It's during these times," Janie says, "when mindfulness can be practised instead of willing or expecting things to change naturally. Tara Brach's Smile Meditation (below) is a very effective meditation practice that deactivates the stress response in the body and brain. By imagining and feeling a smile, you open yourself up and give yourself greater capacity to think and even get answers to the problems you're facing".  Want to feel better, try it!

 

WATCH RON GUTMAN'S TED TALK HERE | THE HIDDEN POWER OF SMILING (7MINS)