The Smiling Experiment
As you may have read in my previous blog post, Laughter and Why its So Important, my first Laughter Yoga experience taught me a great lesson that I needed to learn about myself. The exercise that enhanced my awareness, was draping our arms down towards the ground as we basically cried it out. This was to eventually have us lift our arms up over our heads to let out laughter. The problem was, I felt so comfortable down in that crying out place, I didn’t WANT to bring my arms up over my head to laugh. I wanted to stay down there and continue to pretend to cry. It felt comfy, and it was actually work for me to lift my arms up.
This exercise taught me how comfortable I was in that place. This was a place of sadness, self-pity, and regret. It seemed that I enjoyed being in a place that kept me sad, because it was what I knew. It’s like my body was protecting itself, wanting to keep in this state, since it didn’t know or really understand the other side.
I understand that I may have created this “habit” of misery within myself at some point in my life. Somewhere down the line, I must have kicked in the self-pity and sadness about my life, and stuck with it. The feeling was so strong that even though I thought I was happy, deep inside, I really wasn’t.
Since, you can’t change what you don’t know about yourself, it was upon this moment of realization, I decided I wanted to make myself a better person. I decided that I didn’t WANT to be comfortable in sadness. I REALLY wanted to be happy. So, if you want to be happier, how do you make this change? What could I do to help make myself feel warm and fuzzy inside?
Well, to start, I continued taking the Laughter Yoga classes. Through these classes, I developed a clearer understanding about what can make someone happy. And basically, I learned that it comes from ME. (Something that we hear about a lot, but it really sunk in here.) What else did I learn from Laughter Yoga? I learned that even when we fake a smile and laugh, we can release endorphins into the body. I also know from teaching mindfulness, that when we allow negative thoughts into our mind, we can end up down a rabbit hole of negativity.
So, after about a year, it was then, I decided to do this little experiment on myself…
I knew that whatever I did, I wanted to take it slow, since anytime you change something too quickly, it would never stick. So, to start off easy, I decided to begin with just daily smiles. I knew from the class that just a smile can allow for positive changes inside the body. So, I made it a point to smile, or rather, fake a smile, 5 times a day. It didn’t matter where or when I did this, but I wanted to be sure I was going to be consistent, so I chose to smile at a memorable place. I chose every stoplight while I was driving. I figure, I was in the car every day anyway, so it would make sense that this was a good place to start, so why not? So, every time I stopped at a stoplight, I would crack a smile and hold it until the light changed. It felt funny and weird at first, but I knew it had to be beneficial in some way, so I continued on.
I’m not exactly sure how long the process took, but, it seemed to gradually have a real positive affect on me. Not only did it become easier and easier to find that smile at each stoplight, but it stopped being so “weird” and started to feel more natural.
After I started feeling comfortable smiling to myself, I decided to branch out and test this on the public. I started at the grocery store. I made it a point to start smiling at people as they walked by. An interesting phenomenon occurred. People actually smiled back! Imaging that! By smiling at others, it seemed to develop an instant connection between me and the person in front of me, even when I didn’t know them. And let me tell you, it felt pretty good inside. REALLY good inside! There were moments it seemed that my smile actually made someone’s day. This is when the experiment took off!
I then took this to an even larger level, where at every public place I would go to, I would just have a smile on my face, just to notice what would happen. Sure enough, without saying a word, people seemed to just be drawn to me to say “hello”, or “good morning”.
It may sound crazy, but during the time of this experiment, my feelings towards other people had become more and more positive. I always felt that people were judgmental and never want to be bothered, but this changed that for me, and made me look even deeper at myself.
So, what is so wonderful about all this, is that I don’t even have to force a smile anymore. My body just naturally does it now. So, I can be sitting on a chair, and my husband will walk by and ask me what I’m smiling about. I’ll be in the grocery store, and people will say “hello” to me, probably because I have a welcoming smile on my face. It seems when you really open yourself up to others, they WILL respond. I don’t have to force a smile on my face anymore, because its already there, and at stoplights, my body just naturally smiles now.
I feel happier since I’ve done this, and its amazing the connections with others I have developed. I feel more outgoing and self-confident inside. I see people differently now, and I like what I see in others. (For the most part, anyway..LOL.) My students and friends are more open, and I have much more patience and tolerance with even the difficult people in my life. Placing the emphasis on the positive instead of the negative, has eliminated a lot of the negativity from my own life. I am much happier and look forward to helping others find their own inner happiness, by using these tools in my classes.
So, give it a try. Give yourself a month or so of forcing a smile, various times during the day, and notice. Notice how the feeling of just turning up the muscles on the sides of your mouth can change you. It can bring on new forms of gratitude and love of self. It can bring on a sense of community with others, which makes us feel a part of something bigger, instead of feeling so alone.
Go out there and smile..and enjoy your beautiful day!
Love and peace.. XO
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Michelle has a BS, E-RYT, YACEP, CHN, CLYL, and Y12SRL.