Friday, October 1st is World Smile Day, but everyday should be World Smile Day! Smiles are truly one of the most powerful healing tools we have and deserve to be celebrated! The healing effects of simply smiling are well documented. A smile helps you to relax, and reduces pain via endorphins and other natural painkillers. It also stimulates the release of serotonin, which relaxes the body and allows for better immune function. Smiling naturally makes us more attractive and can therefore boost confidence leading to greater success in our pursuits. Genuine, intense smiling is actually associated with longer lifespans. Smiling helps us to both live longer and to feel good while alive.
In TCM, the emotion of joy is generated by the heart. The Shen, which is the aspect of spirit associated with the heart, expresses itself mainly through the eyes, such as in the ‘sparkle in the eye’ but interestingly, in TCM facial diagnosis, the corners of the mouth correlate with the heart. And what better way to show off a healthy heart and spirit than pairing that sparkle in the eye with a heartfelt smile? Add in a little laughter, and after a brief initial increase in heart rate and blood pressure, you can enjoy the lasting effect of a lowered heart rate and blood pressure as well as overall muscle relaxation. Something as simple as stirring up a little joy can be the key to preventing heart disease, the number one killer in America today.
Ancient Taoists were well aware of the healing ability inherent in the energy of a smile. Qi Gong masters practiced a form of internal alchemy called the Inner Smile Meditation and passed down this tradition through the ages. It involves imagining the sensation of a smile in each of our organs and feeling the peace that the smile brings as it releases stuck energy in our organs and channels. It is said to awaken a core sense of unity and activate the inner will of our heart. This practice is known to create profound healing effects on the body.
While the inner smile meditation sounds simple, it is a qi gong practice that can take a lifetime to master. Meanwhile, the benefits of smiling are available to us all. The basic exercise of smiling at yourself in a mirror can transform your self-image and heal inner wounds. Also, called ‘mirror-work’, this act of self-love generates compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and others. Take your smile out in public too and notice its effects. We’ve all heard smiles are contagious, so let yours ripple out. You have no idea how far it will go. It might possibly heal the world.
Smiling is not just an effect of health and happiness, it can also be the cause. Make sure to share it on World Smile Day and everyday. If you need a little help bringing out yours, come get a smile-boosting acupuncture session, and celebrate your own unique smile’s healing power.