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Thich Nhat Hanh on the smiling debate

This post was written by Angela
on August 22, 2011 | Comments (2)

During walking meditation, during kitchen and garden work, during sitting meditation, all day long, we can practice smiling.
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Previously I had posted on being true to your mood and how I have always struggled with the idea of smiling when it isn’t a reflection of what I am actually feeling. There was some great feedback, both for and against, and I knew that discussion wasn’t the end of my exploration on the topic. Since then I have come across quite a few articles on smiling, smiling, smiling, but it all felt superficial. I still wasn’t convinced. Nothing was quite hitting home for me, but my mind is always open to the possibilities.

This morning I read an article by Thich Nhat Hanh that finally pulled the pieces together. The angle he takes with this concept is not to force a change in your mood through smiling, but to allow it to unfold through acts of meditation and mindfulness. This allows your smile to naturally open you to all those corresponding layers of being: calmess, happiness, peacefulness. He also offers a meditation to help work with breathing to reach a natural smiling state, which I experienced as fast-acting and extremely calming. Click this link for the full article and meditation. If you try the smiling bit and your heart isn’t into it, he doesn’t say to fake it til you make it. Instead he coaxes you to explore what that might be all about. Since smiling is an expression of our natural balanced state, why might it feel difficult for you to smile?

My previous impression of the whole smiling game was that it was more to effect the outer world in a false show. I still won’t be smiling for the sake of smiling, but Thich Nhat Hanh has gently corrected me by showing it is, above all, an inner change that should come in a natural, unforced way.

What is your impression of Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice?

For the original post on this topic, follow this link for being true to your mood.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Cheryl Ryder
on August 25th, 2011 @ 5:58 am

Many years ago I attended a seminar on thinking vs feeling. It has been determined, scientifically, that “the brain follows the face.” In other words, the expression you put on your face causes the mind to generate emotions to match the expression that the brain detects as being on your face. You can quickly confirm this. Put a frown on your face for 45 seconds and then take honest stock of your mood.
You will be feeling dull and hopeless or angry. Now, put a smile on your face for 45 seconds, and take stock of your mood. You will notice immediately that your mood has lifted. The brain puts out endorphins, seratonins, and epinephrins to match your facial expression. (This information presented by Paul Larsen, The Summit Workshop Organization, circa 1984)

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#2 
Written By Connie Zag
on August 29th, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

There was also research cited today that found that the people who smile the biggest live the longest… perhaps it is more complicated then we believe. Perhaps we don’t know what comes first; the big smile or the thing/person/event we are smiling about…Do we smile which causes the happy chain of events or positive way we view things or do the happy events cause the giant smile… and around and around it goes. :)

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