Research has shown that when you smile, your brain assumes you must be happy*.
The following exercise can be a good way to start the day, especially if you tend towards depression or are embarrassed about your smile:
- Set the alarm on your computer calendar (PDA, iPod, alarm clock etc.) to give an alarm each morning.
- When the alarm goes off, snooze it for one minute.
- Practice the following simple meditation (preferably with eyes closed): - While inhaling, smile - While exhaling, relax deeply Feel free to try different smiles: mouth open or closed, a subtle hint of a smile, exaggerated smile, big and soulful, eyes crinkling, or just mentally imagine smiling.
- When the alarm goes off again, continue with your day.
You can practice this exercise for longer periods if desired, but if you find yourself canceling the alarm because you can't spare five minutes, go back to the one-minute meditation. The cumulative value of doing this exercise over a long period of time is more important than how long you spend each morning.
You can also practice this exercise while driving to work (with eyes open, of course).
Another alternative, via Thich Nhat Hanh:
On inhalation, smile and think: "This moment"
On exhalation, relax and think: "Perfect moment"
* For example, see Strack, F., Martin, L.L. and Stepper, S. (1988) Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: A nonobstrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 54: 768-777.
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