A while back, as part of an ongoing self-improvement campaign, I vowed to practice smiling every day.
That’s right, smiling practice.
You see, over the years I have pretty much perfected the art of the old man scowling face. I am a large person to begin with – 6-2 and 200-plus pounds – and when you add Mr. Scary Face to the equation, people sometimes tend to avoid direct eye contact when they pass me on the street.
I don’t feel mean or intimidating on the inside, and in fact I am a really mellow and friendly person, but from occasionally taking a glance in the mirror, I know I don’t particularly look that way on the outside.
I suppose it is sort of a protective mechanism started a long time ago, to keep people at least at arm’s length.
You know, keep people away, don’t let them get too close, and they can’t hurt you.
Now, I am well aware of the idea that walking around with a smile on your face is supposed to do a number of wonderful things, including improving one’s mood, making you more attractive, look younger, even become healthier. I’ve heard this many times and from many sources, and I believe it is true, but I’m still a far cry from being in the habit of wearing an upside-down frown all day long. Even part of the time, if truth be told.
The smiling practice? Sorry to say it did not last long and it did not take.
Even though it supposedly takes a lot more facial muscles to frown than it does to smile, it feels really strange and uncomfortable for me to walk around with a big ol’ smile on my face. It just does.
Along with smiling, there is its close cousin, laughing. According to an article published a couple years ago by Huffington Post, laughter can actually cause physiological responses in the body that provide protection from disease and keep vital organs healthy. A good laugh exercises muscles, decreases blood pressure and stress, improves sleep and strengthens the immune system.
A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University Medical School indicated that laughter can also improve things like memory and brain function.
In the Bible, Proverbs 17:22 tells us: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Psalm 126.2 says this: "We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’”
Unfortunately, old habits are hard to break.
I saw a posting on Facebook earlier today that said this:
“Change your reality. There is absolutely nothing stopping you. Instead of thinking it will be hard, start thinking it will be easy. You might be surprised. Every day is an opportunity to make a choice to change your life. It is up to you.”
Definitely words to live by, and something that is becoming more and more clear, not to mention more doable for me since my visit to be with a friend during surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston. (Read about that here.) It has been coming up on two weeks since I was there, and I think the experience has permanently changed my life, my outlook, my perspective.
I know someone who walks around with a perpetual smile on her face. It is extremely rare to see her without shining eyes and a big, bright smile.
One time I asked her about it, and she said she makes a conscious decision each and every day to wear a smile, and to be happy.
I am a big researcher and seeker of answers, so naturally I decided to do a little research on smiling. Perhaps sadly, there is an actual website entitled learnhowtosmile.com, and its recommendation is simple: practice. Make smiling part of your everyday routine, and it eventually will become and start to feel more natural.
So, I was on the right track, at least, when it came to my unsuccessful smiling practice. I probably just did not keep at it long enough.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
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