Are You Putting on a Smiling Face?

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  -Proverbs 17:22

Dear Friend,

Women tend to show their emotions on their faces more than men, and research shows we are also more adept at reading emotional expressions than men. It is possible then that as a woman, you are more impacted by a smiling face than your male counterparts.

An article in Scientific American pointed to research at the University of Cardiff in Wales studied women who were injected with Botox that inhibited their ability to frown. The results showed that those unable to frown reported feeling happier and less anxious. Interestingly, they did not report feeling any more attractive than the women who did not receive Botox injections, so researchers concluded that the happy feelings could not be attributed to giddiness about having fewer wrinkles. “It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn’t just restricted to our brain – there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we’re having,” noted the study’s co-author Michael Lewis, in the article. “It’s like a feedback loop.”

Negative feelings don’t just bring a frown, but the frown brings additional negative feelings. Without the ability to frown, the negative feelings are less intense. Another study, published in theJournal of Pain, showed that those who make unhappy faces while experiencing pain report feeling higher levels of pain than those who relax their faces while experiencing pain. Again, the facial expression intensifies the feeling. These findings mirror the physiological response of a smile. Happy feelings don’t just bring a smile to your face. A smile on your face brings happy feelings. There is a feedback loop between your face and your feelings.

To be clear, you should not avoid frowning when you are sad in order to thwart negative feelings on a regular basis. Research shows that if you suppress your negative emotions altogether, they will eventually emerge in other ways.

Even though science proves that smiling – whether genuine or not – can bring happy feelings, it is much better when you can actually have a real reason to smile. Sometimes, this means taking yourself less seriously. Finding a way to laugh at yourself – or just laugh period is a sure way to a genuine smile. How many times do you smile a day? When encountered with negative feelings, in what ways can you find a reason to smile? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time…

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Cherish It. Feel It. Savor It.

Dear Friend,

Anticipation is savoring the future, but there are two other ways to savor that will make creating something to look forward to all the more worthwhile: Savoring the moment and then reminiscing about it. Once you’ve spent time anticipating the experience, make sure you actually enjoy the experience. In our text-happy, social-media saturated culture, there is a temptation that didn’t exist before: The temptation to tell everybody what you’re up to while you’re up to it! Resist the urge. Fully engage in your moment once it arrives. Cherish it. Feel it. Taste it. Savor it. This very moment will never come again.

When I was a little girl in Panama City, Florida, I looked forward with great anticipation to getting to play in the backyard. It wasn’t just any backyard. Somehow, we lucked out. We lived on an Air Force base and our house just happened to be on the side of the street that backed up to the Gulf of Mexico. The view was spectacular. So at 5 or 6 years old, one of my favorite pastimes was sitting on my swing set in the middle of the backyard and watching the dolphins jump and play around three large poles about 100 yards from the water’s edge. I’d count the number of dolphins and number of jumps. I’d get excited when they jumped completely over a poll rather than just bobbing out of the water. It was a real treat for me when the dolphins decided to play.

Just a few months before I turned seven years old, my parents brought me into the kitchen to explain that we were moving. I didn’t really comprehend the concept at first – it had never occurred to me that we’d live anywhere other than where we were. And we weren’t just moving down the street or even to another city. We were moving to another country: West Germany.

As the time neared for us to move, my six-year old mind decidedly wanted to forever remember what it felt like to sit in the blissfulness of that backyard ritual. Somehow, even at that young age, I knew how special it was. I recall sitting on my swing, telling myself the year and the place and taking a mental snapshot of the beautiful view in front of me. Even now – decades later – I can close my eyes and feel transported to that joyful moment in time.

Savoring is a powerful to induce positive emotion. There are three ways we savor – the past, present and future. Although anticipation is about savoring the future, it is worthy to note that you can also generate positive emotion by savoring the moments you once anticipated. Whether it is a mental snapshot, a photographic snapshot or a conversation reminiscing about a special moment, savoring the past is one way to extend the joy beyond the moment. Think back to a vivid, specific moment in your life when you were filled with joy. What happened? How did you feel? Who were you with? Leave your comments below, I want to hear from you!