You can't worry and smile at the same time. Try it. First, smile. Now, think of one of the typical worrisome or anxiety-provoking thoughts that messes with your self-esteem and sense of everything being all right. For me, today, it's, "What was I thinking when I signed my toddler up for swimming lessons–I should have known his nap time would inevitably be a conflict." (Taking. A lot of. Effort. To feel that. Anxious thought. And smile. I'm not succeeding. My smile melts into a grimace when I get close.)
But, I'm not talking about that kind of smiling. I'm talking about a teeny-tiny, personal, private smile called the Inner Smile. It's as effective–no, to be honest, I suspect it's more effective than an outright grin. I think the Inner Smile is more authentic.
"In ancient China, the Taoists taught that a constant inner smile, a smile to oneself, insured health, happiness and longevity. Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself." - Mantak Chia
Nobody is losing weight by reading blogs about losing weight. (Not me, at least.) Action is required of us. You can't read a self-improvement blog and improve yourself by reading alone. Action is required.
The Inner Smile is an action you can take. Even if this is an action imperceptible to others, the Inner Smile, it's not to be underestimated–it's actually ancient, powerful stuff. (I learned about the Inner Smile back in 1995 during a class on eastern perspectives in health at San Francisco State University.)
Here's how to create the Inner Smile:
1. Let your mouth be very lightly closed
2. Exhale through your nose
3. Let the corners of your mouth curl up very slightly into an almost-smile
You should feel your eyes soften immediately, and perhaps your upper eyelid will lower just slightly–that bodily reaction is the indicator that you you've gotten the smile right! You may also notice that you've become aware of your breathing, that you're exhaling deeply all of a sudden. These two aspects will cause you to feel very relaxed.
“ Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
The "inner" part of the Inner Smile has to do with the way your system, your body, is reacting to this relaxation-inducing smile. Your breathing is steady. Your worries have no room. You're calm. You're content.
The next time your brain gets to worrying, whether it's right when you wake up in the morning, or just Sunday morning, on your drive to work, or prior to a difficult conversation–engage your Inner Smile and carve out some peace for yourself. It's quick. It's simple. And effective.
In the long run, the more often your body experiences calm, it will crave it. Just because you grew up with anxiety and cortisol running through your body, doesn't mean you can't train it to love the opposite!