Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thought #2: The Buddha Smile

Ever been around someone who was contagious; not disease-wise, but vibe-wise? A woman I worked with could alter my mood drastically just by walking into our office. If her face was at peace, I knew the day would flow well. Distraught expression? Oh man, a much harder day.

Since I live in the great northwest and it’s winter time, the sky and people’s moods can be a bit dark. Gray weather brings on depression and the doldrums. Since we can’t always get out of here for sunnier weather, I work at practicing a Buddha smile.

A Buddha smile is just a small, subtle smile I try to wear as often as I can remember. There have actually been studies showing that smiling cues the brain to be happier (releasing endorphins). Well, yeah – but really, think about smiling, not because you are amused but just because you can smile. It affects your mood as well as everyone else around you.

So I’m in the car with my husband a while back. It’s winter, it’s gray, and I’m doing my Buddha smile practice. He doesn’t know I intentionally do this. We are stopped at a traffic light, and cars are turning onto the street we’re on, each moving slow enough that the driver looks at us as he/she turns. Each person turning, smiles at us as they go past. After five or six cars, my husband exclaims, “So what’s happening, everyone is smiling at us?” I just start giggling. See it works. I made myself happier by keeping my attention on a subtle smile and it brightened the drivers who passed us. It’s sort of like passing happiness forward. Smile because you can and others will do the same.

In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert meets a medicine man. He becomes her guru for a while and one of his requests is for her to meditate nightly. “What should I meditate on?” she asks. And he tells her it’s a smile meditation. She is to sit quietly and meditate for an hour with a smile on her face. “You need to be happier Liz,” he tells her. “Just breath and smile.”

So try it. Walk around for a week with a subtle little smile on your face and pay attention to your mood as well as those around you. It’s contagious.

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