A Sunday or two ago I was asked to give a little talk in church on happiness. While preparing my initial thoughts turned to smiling, because nothing says “i’m happy” like the smile on your face.
As you are reading this right now, what are you doing with your face? If your like me, you get a serious concentratey face when you’re reading. What is happening in your jaw? Are you clinching your teeth? Subconsciously grinding those chompers? Do your eyes feel tired? Tired from not enough sleep, tired of looking at screens, tired from a worn out mind?
What’s going on with your face says a lot about what’s going on with your life. Your eyes, the little creases around them and the corners of your mouth are like little indicators of what’s going on, on the inside. As they say, “windows to the soul”.
As I looked down into the congregation at the faces of the people, I asked them these very same questions. I noticed some looks of heaviness, of irritation, of fatigue, there were even a few sleepers out there with their eyes closed. Not that I can blame them, sometimes getting to the church on time at 9am with baby in tow isn’t the easiest breeziest task for me. But then there were also some peaceful faces, neutral faces not really expressing much, intent faces, serious faces, engaged faces and then I landed some smiles, and I looked at them, and felt… great. Then right then and there I asked everyone to just smile. Just to try it, to see how it felt. I’d say about eighty five percent of the congregation put a quick grin on their faces. I even noticed one couple look at eachother, smile and then kiss. Cute! But then of course there were those that just couldn’t bring themselves to do it, embarrassed maybe, too cool for school perhaps… and there were a few that did it but it was that forced smile that we all have learned to use on occasion. Lastly there were those that were just tuned out.
Sometimes we just can’t smile. There is no substance for a smile, we are empty, sad, mad, discouraged, stuck and or vacant. We shouldn’t be fakers, right? We cannot give what we do not have, right?
Kind of. I kind of think we can. Follow me for a minute. When there is no reason to smile, when we are lacking joy or happiness in life, we show it, we emote it. Whether we mean to or not, we are shooting out bummer beams to those we see and interact with and it may be repelling them and the things we truly desire. Whether it’s strangers at Target, the guy at the drive-thru, drivers on the road, moms at playgroup, our spouse, your kids, their teachers, the people we fellowship with at church, the person looking right back at us in the mirror. They can see it, they can feel it… can we? Now, I do live in the real world, and I absolutely recognize that there are very reasonable and legitimate causes for these sad, distressed, grumpy, stink faces we are making. Life is hard… super hard. Life is unfair… super unfair. There is so many sad things happening in the world. We can’t control everything, or really anyone. This can put a damper on the day. We ALL are experiencing this at one time or another. The question is, is the frown on our faces making any of this better? …
What I am suggesting is that regardless of how much crap is hitting your fan, choosing a smile just might turn things around. I’m not suggesting putting on a facade, or being inauthentic. What I am saying is finding it in ourselves to say, despite these blues, despite the struggle, I believe happiness can be found, I believe I can get through this. I believe I can be happy and I can smile, and I will smile! Sometimes, a smile is an act of faith. We will find however, it is also a joy magnet. It attracts people, it opens the door to good things, new possibilities and actually feels like it’s doing something to your brain. Try it right now! Go ahead and smile! Do you feel what I feel? Like a boost up into your brain, like energy in your cheeks, like waves of electricity in your noggin! Am I crazy? Of course I am, but at least I’m a crazy nut with a smile. Also, notice the state of your heart and the track of your thoughts, Might it bring a recollection of your blessings? Spark even a little feeling of gratitude? Does it make you want to dance a little?
I’m sure there are loads of scientific facts and stuff out there about the benefits of smiling, but honestly I am too lazy to google them. I don’t need them. I have tried it, tested it, lived it to know… smiling works.
I started Cardio Barre about a year ago. A good friend of mine shot out a text about a groupon deal to get 10 classes for $40. I was five months postpartum and was ready to get back in the exercise saddle again. I jumped on the deal and into my first class. About fifteen minutes into the class I came to a poignant realization that I had made a huge mistake, and had just wasted $40. As I hung parallel to the ballet barre for dear life as my lifeless leg tried to lift for what felt like the 157th time, I could nearly stare into my reflection in a pool of my own sweat on the ground. Dramatic, yes? True, pretty much.
So I went back again, and again. Each time just about as hard as the last. It was awful, really awful, BUT, I noticed changes in my body. So I kept going. One day, in the middle of the agony, as we were in the midst of “barre thighs” our instructor yelled out “what are you doing with your faces!?”. I remember thinking to myself, “what kind of stupid question is that?!”. I looked up with a look of anguish and uttor stupor?! She then said that we can choose to make the hour miserable, or we can choose to make it enjoyable. No way I thought. But then, I decided to start smiling. I started focusing on my smile, the music, the beat… channeling my inner Ryan Lewis, I started singing along “like the ceiling can’t hold us, like the ceiling can’t hold us!!!”. My legs still heavy as elephants, I kicked and lifted with gusto as they shook and wobbled their way into the air, my buns literally in fiery flames! Game changer. Since that day, I have gone back each time, scared out of my mind for what I knew was to come, 55 minutes of non-stop leg lifting, butt burning, tummy crunching and killer calf raising and other such body transforming torture etc. But now I know it will take all the mental toughness I can muster to find my physical toughness. But somehow I do it, and I smile big and I smile hard, not cause it’s easy, or because it’s fun, but because it get’s me through, it makes me stronger, it gives me power, it pushes me AND I would like to think that it helps others get though, and gives them power. I often smile at other people in the class, some of them probably want to punch me in the face, or think I’m a weirdo, which I am… but some of them smile back, and we “woo!” together, it’s awesome. I’ve noticed a lot more people smiling in class, and suddenly it’s a party!
Lastly. When singing high notes, or notes that feel like they are beyond your range, it can be easy to get “a little pitchy dawg”. However, there is a simple effective trick that nine times out of ten will fix that pitch. Yep you guessed it, a smile! I learned this trick a long time ago, and whenever I feel a note that is out of reach, I smile and usually, it works! Something about the placement of the note changes, something in your mind changes.
Absolutely this is a life metaphor.
Now I am not saying that we have to walk around with a big cheesy toothy grin every minute of all twenty-four hours of every darn day, that could be exhausting. But overall, what are you doing with your face? Could you use a facelift? A natural one, one that doesn’t cost a dime, require a doctor, anesthesia or surgical knives? When you feel you can’t hit the high notes, kick that leg one more time, get your cranky two year old to go to bed, get your family to church on time, work another day at a job that wasn’t your dream, heal from a hurtful break-up, or cope through a painful loss… smile and see what happens. It might not fix everything, but it could be a start, it’s worth a try.
I had the words of this Carole King song taped to the back of my bedroom door till I was 17. I told that to Simon Cowell when I sang this song in Hollywood week, and he rolled his eyes. I sang it right to him and stumbled through it:
“you’ve got to get up every morning, with a smile on your face and show the world, all the love in your heart! Then people ‘gonna treat you better, you’re gonna find yes you will… that you’re beautiful as you feel!”.
I know this is true. Amen.
Join me and @theGWGshow on Instagram for the #smileselfiechallenge and post a picture of yourself and your beautiful grin! Tag @thegwgshow and tell your friends to do the same! It’s contagious! Join the free facelift revolution!
: ) Brooke