Which came first, smiling or happiness?

Which came first, smiling or happiness?

via Psych Central by Ruth Wilson

Intentionally smiling can be part of your spiritual practice.

I recently played a word association game with my eight-year-old granddaughter, Kya. I said “peanut butter,” she said “jelly.” I said “dog,” she said “cat.” I said “smile,” she said “happy.” After this game, I reflected on the association we often make between smiling and happiness. As Kya’s response indicated, when we see someone smiling, we tend to assume they’re happy. Being happy, we think, comes first: People feel happy and then they smile. But can it work the other way around: people smile and then they’re happy? Both scientific evidence and personal experience support this idea.

Science tells us that a smile has the power to not only impact you but also the people around you in positive ways. One study used MRI technology to investigate ways in which facial actions can initiate particular emotions. When people are asked to use the muscles in their face to show such emotions as fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and happiness, they actually experience elements of the corresponding emotion. This is due to the fact that the muscles in your face let your brain know that you’re smiling. Your brain then generates the chemicals that make you feel happy.

Perhaps you don’t need research to tell you that smiling can make you feel happy. Perhaps you’ve experienced it personally. I know I have. I first learned about the power of the smile during a meditation retreat several years ago. At one point during the retreat, we were invited to silently think of certain mantras during our in and out breaths. The mantras consisted of four sets of words: “in-out, slow-deep, smile-relax, present moment-beautiful moment.”

I readily accepted the relevance of the other three sets, but “smile-relax” seemed somewhat out of place. I was looking for depth through a meditation practice, not enjoyment and relaxation. After following the directions, however, I soon discovered deeper meanings to the smile-relax mantra. I discovered, too, that just thinking about this mantra brought a smile to my face. And with that smile, I felt a sense of happiness…

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