Ever heard of the smiling meditation? If not, you might be wondering what on earth it is, and why you should want to try it. The answer’s in the name itself. If you like the way smiling and meditation make you feel, you’re going to love this practice that packs the benefits of both into one sitting.
I think we can all agree smiling feels good. Especially when we have a good reason to smile. But what constitutes a good reason? A fortunate event, a favorite song on the radio, or the laughter of a loved one? What about smiling simply for the sake of smiling? When’s the last time you gave yourself that gift?
There’s actually plenty of evidence to show a smile carries its own rewards, independent of any positive condition that might inspire it. The physical act of contracting your face muscles into a smile lifts your mood and reduces your stress reactions. Happier moods and lower stress levels, in turn, support your overall health and well-being. So why not give yourself the gift of a smile more often?
In this article, I’ll be sharing some fascinating research that supports the benefits of smiling. But even better, I’ll take you through a powerful smiling meditation practice that can bring the vitality of your smile to a whole new level. When you’re done, you’ll be glowing with vibrant, life-affirming energy.
What’s So Great About Your Smile?
Besides the fact that your smile is contagious and can make everyone around you feel better, your smile can actually make YOU feel better too. Research backs this up:
This study shows that smiling not only reduces stress responses, it’s good for your heart. And what’s really cool about these findings is that the participants gained the benefits of smiling whether their smiles were genuine or not.
There’s more. This unusual study looked at women who were given Botox injections that made them unable to frown. Compared to women who had not received the injections (and were able to frown), the non-frowners reported feeling happier and less anxious. And it wasn’t due to a confidence boost brought on by the cosmetic benefits of Botox. The Botox recipients didn’t report feeling any more attractive than the other women.
Another related study used fMRI machines to monitor the brains of people whose facial expressions had been limited by Botox. When these participants were asked to mimic certain emotions, their fMRI’s registered much less activity in the regions of their brain connected to those emotions. Participants who had not received Botox, and were able to use their facial expressions to mimic the emotions, generated much more activity in those parts of the brain.
There appears to be some kind of feedback loop between the face and the brain. The physical act of expressing emotions on your face impacts the experience of emotions in your brain!
This fMRI study demonstrated a similar phenomenon, without the Botox factor. It’s conclusion…When you smile, you become happier. Separately, a meta-analysis of 138 studies with over 11,000 participants drew a similar verdict.
So, it seems clear. Smiling can make you feel happier. It can reduce your stress responses. It’s good for you! But what happens when we take that smiling magic and amp it up with the power of an intentional smiling meditation?
The Smiling Meditation
This meditation takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on your pace. That’s 10-20 minutes of giving yourself the mood-lifting, stress reducing benefits we just talked about. Much longer than the average smile. So, just from a time perspective, this practice can multiply the typical benefits associated with your smile.
But more than that, this practice expands the energy of your smile from your face to your entire body. By the end of it, every cell in your body is infused with that smiling energy. You feel like you’re literally glowing.
The version I’m sharing here is an adaptation of the Inner Smile Meditation used in Tai Chi and QiGong, practices that focus on balancing life energy (or Chi) through movement, breathing techniques, and meditation. Your smile’s energy, which is naturally life-affirming, is connected to the life energy that sustains you. The smiling meditation visualizes the expansion of this energy throughout your body, until your whole self is beaming your smile.
It can leave you feeling lighter, happier, more energized and positive. Rich with self-love, it can open you up to meeting your day with your whole heart, and living your life with abundant joy.
When & Where to Do It
You can do the smiling meditation anytime and just about anywhere, so long as the setting allows you to turn your awareness inward. But here are some suggestions for when & where you might get the most benefit:
- At the start of your day, to set the tone and energize yourself for the day.
- At the end of your day, especially if it’s been stressful.
- Anytime you’re feeling down, low-energy, or overwhelmed with stress.
- Before doing something creative.
- After yoga practice, seated or in Savasana. Yoga frees up the flow of energy in your body. Following-up your yoga session with this smiling meditation can supercharge the benefits of both practices.
- In a quiet space in nature. The abundance of life energy that surrounds you in nature settings can enhance your awareness of, and connection to, the life energy flowing within you.
After a few times practicing with my guided version (below), you should be able to guide yourself through the smiling meditation anytime, anywhere. Simply turn your awareness inward and visualize your smiling energy spreading throughout your whole self.
If you enjoy this guided meditation, you might also like my Guided Meditation for Intentional Wellness. It focuses on harnessing the power of your intention to create sustained wellness in your body, heart, mind & spirit. You can learn more about it here.
I’d love to hear how this smiling meditation worked for you. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!