“Come on, smile. It can’t be that bad!”
We live in a culture that pins being positive at the top of the attitude list. Be happy, be the best, capture a smiling you and post on social media to prove it.
And if you don’t feel on top of the world, fake it. Fake the smile, fake the confidence, fake the joy and pin that on social media too.
I don’t know about you but just writing that is painful.
Maybe it’s time to explore if faking a smile is good for us or to our detriment.
The Natural Smile
Smiling is thought of as a natural expression of happiness. Is that true?
A baby’s first smile is a highly anticipated event. It’s taken as a sign of happiness and social connection. But a baby’s first smiles are not social smiles, they are reflex smiles. They smile when they have gas, are sleeping, or when peeing and pooping.
In the animal world it’s thought that apes originally opened their mouth in the shape of a smile to bare teeth as a warning to predators to stay away.
The Social Smile and the Adapted Smile
Social smiles begin when the baby begins to recognize familiar faces, food and other experiences that resonate with their sensory system.
Besides a sign of warmth and open-ness, smiling helps our bodies release cortisol and endorphins that provide health benefits, including:
Reduced blood pressure.
Strengthened immune system.
However, the social smile of warmth and open-ness can easily become corrupted when the child learns that smiling triggers a positive reaction, such as approval, being rewarded as ‘the happy one’, being identified as friendly and safe and all together more acceptable.
Underneath the fake smile an adult or child might feel anything but happy.
While a fake smile can trick the brain to produce mood boosting hormones, when smiling is employed as a way to repress upset feelings, you can make yourself feel worse.
If you always cope with unhappiness by forcing a smile and pretending you’re not upset, this can create patterns of avoiding deeper feelings and an inability to express emotions in a healthy way.
And if you fake a smile to those close to you this can keep you from getting support and love that lead to healing.
The Authentic Smile
Remember, remember. All feelings and emotions, just as notes on a piano, belong.
From sadness, depression and grief all the way up the scale to joy, peace and love.
The concert pianist is not afraid of any note on the piano. They respect each note for it’s unique texture and contribution to the powerful, beautiful, authentic expression of a musical piece.
Respect and love your emotions. Let them sit easily alongside each other. Ready to be touched and played when the time is right.
Let your smile become the unconditional smile of the Buddha. Not a smile in response to good feelings or things, but for Being.
An expression of the happiness and peace of your true nature.