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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

The mental help of a smile, what's in it for you?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 13th 2008

 My wife came home the other day and told me something extra-ordinary that happened. She was checking out at the local grocery store and the clerk said to her, "thank you for that smile". She wasn't expecting that response, but it felt good nonetheless. Later that day, she intentionally smiled to a woman at another store who turned to her as well and said "thank you so much for that smile. In these difficult times it feels like a breath of fresh air". When she told me this story it made me think about all the benefits of simply laying out a smile to people from time to time.

Don't feel like smiling? Many people don't, especially in the current economic and political atmosphere. I used to run a group where one piece of it was practicing creating a half-smile from time to time throughout the day. How do you do this? Place a pen or pencil between your teeth and it forces a half-smile. The purpose of this is to notice the difference in how your body and mood feels after doing this. For many, they report a sense of lightness in the face and they actually feel a lighter mood coming on as well.

The behavior, in this case smiling, that we consciously or unconsciously choose to do on a daily basis can have a great effect on our daily mood. What other effects have people found beneficial in respect to smiling and how you can benefit too?

  • Smiles is good for social support - people are attracted to smiles and they are contagious and so when one person is smiling there may be more that follow suit.

  • Smiling aids in stress-reduction - smiling can actually relieve the muscles in the face that are overworked from times when we're overwhelmed or over-serious during the day. This natural stress reducer may also help relax the whole body and lead to better immune functioning as a result.  It also has been shown to lead to increased endorphins and serotonin, both important in helping us not only with stress, but feeling good.

  • Smiling is good for our physical health - studies have come out that actually show decreased blood pressure when people smile.

Even with all this, don't take my word for it, try it for yourself. Consciously smile today and see what you notice or use the aid of a pen or pencil to practice for a few minutes. Feel free to do this and comment below what you notice or comment below with your experiences with smiling. We can all learn from one another.  

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

does giggling count? - Mike - Oct 13th 2008

The thought of me concentrating intently as I clutch a pencil between my teeth makes me giggle.  At first I laugh disparagingly, but then I realize I'm laughing...  I don't like humor that laughs at the ideas of others but at least its funny to me.  Then, once I start laughing, I become willing to try the pencil trick.  I think it would work.

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