Let a smile be your umbrella

Posted by at 16 November, 2011, 12:23 pm

November can bring gloomy days, rain, and even snow.  Some people love this autumn weather; others are less enchanted by it.  Add in a few ordinary life mishaps and you can create deep gloom.
 

Here’s how to lift the gloom when you’re suffering from the “grumpies”, a discontented feeling that arises from a series of  a series of small, unpleasant episodes that you are in danger of inflating into a really bad mood:
 

Sit or lie down; take several of those deep belly breaths.
 

Close your eyes and imagine what a smile feels like  – the little lift at the corners of your mouth, the softening of your jaw muscles, the relaxation of your cheeks.
 

Next, reach far back into your memory for an event where someone gave you support, love, or praise, or where you excelled at something you had attempted.   Slowly scroll forward through your memory seeking only such positive episodes, resolutely resisting reminiscing about old resentments or hurts.
 

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As you think about these pleasant memories, think about how grateful you are, and smile at that thought.  Let the smile be the response to your good memories, not a forced smile.  This genuine smile was called a Duchenne smile by facial expression researcher Paul Ekman, Ph.D,  after 19th Century French physician  and researcher into muscles, Guillaume Duchenne.
 

Psychologist Dachter Keltner, in Born To Be Good, says that the Duchenne smile activates the reward, or pleasure, center in the brain, by flooding it with dopamine.  The same center responds similarly to chocolate, love, orgasm, alcohol, and even cocaine.
 

Why not practice  smiling frequently?  People who are stressed out can calm themselves, slow their heartbeat, and reduce stress hormones in their blood by producing a genuine Duchenne smile, as described by Barbara Frederickson, Ph.D., and Robert Levinson, Ph.D. in a 1998 article in Cognition and Emotion.
 

Research by the British Dental Health Foundation suggested that smiling can provide the same stimulation as eating chocolate bars.
 

What a great way to feel good without blowing your budget or your diet!

 

Be careful though: the pleasure center is where addictive behaviors – which can be positive or negative – are formed. You could become addicted to smiling!

 

The consequences of that addiction?  Better mood, better health, and even a longer life span.
 

Not a bad umbrella, for any season!

 

Lynette Crane, M.A.(Psychology) and Certified Life Coach, has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress management. She currently works to provide stress and time pressure solutions to harried women, those women who seek “Islands of Peace” in their overly-busy lives. Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/  to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.
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Category : Stress

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