Why Smiling Feels So Good

Menopause & Aging Well

I've never really been fully aware of my facial expressions until I recently caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I wasn't feeling particularly gloomy or angry or even a wee bit sad. But the mirror reflected otherwise. The corners of my mouth were turned downward, and anyone who didn't know me might think I was unhappy, unfriendly, annoyed or a combination of all three.

Why did I look so glum even though I wasn't feeling that way? Or was I really feeling that way and just not being honest with myself?
The truth of it is that gravity is pulling parts of us down, whether we like it or not, and our mouths are not exempt. The corners of our mouths simply begin to droop along with the rest of us as the years rush onward.

Maybe it's because I just had a so-called major birthday, but these kinds of things are on my mind lately. Yeah, maybe it's a wee bit shallow, but I'm not apologizing for caring. It's bad enough that body parts droop, but I'd like to keep my face looking pleasant and satisfied, and apparently the corners of my mouth have a lot to do with that.

After doing a bit of online research, I found that there are cosmetic solutions for the famous corner-of-mouth-droop—Botox or cosmetic fillers. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to anything that makes you feel and look better, but since Botox and fillers are both pricey and temporary (in my opinion, better saved for the "bigger" issues, like crow's feet and wrinkly foreheads), I'm convinced there has to be a  cheaper way.

Onward. I stumbled on a page about doing facial exercises (aka "facercise"). All you need to do, believers say, is devote eight minutes of each day to a regimen of various exercises for your face—and presto, change-o! Just like you can tighten your sagging butt with simple exercise (NOT), so can you achieve tightening and rejuvenation of your face simply by working on your facial muscles.

There has to be a better way. Aha! I got it!

Try smiling. (Am I brilliant or what??)

No, really—science backs me up on this.

For one, smiling is contagious. It's hard not to smile back at someone who smiles at you. And that contagion is a natural paying-it-forward, right? If more people smiled, I suspect that more people would smile. Or something like that.

For another, in times of stress, studies, have found that smiling helps mitigate anxiety and even lowers your heart rate.

Add to that the endorphins that are released when you smile (and especially when you laugh). They're the euphoric, feel-good hormones that reduce your perception of pain.

Smiling can actually trick your body into thinking you're in a good mood. Along with doing Kegel exercises when I'm waiting at a red light (if I remember, that is), I also try to remind myself to smile. It's truly amazing how my mood is instantly lightened by such a simple act.

When I think about it, there really are a lot of reasons to smile—and they're not just everything I've just mentioned in the above paragraphs.

Here are 10 things that made me smile today:

  1. The sun is shining.
  2. The weather is still warm (even though it's mid-October).
  3. I am healthy.
  4. I'm immersed in doing what I love.
  5. I had a killer workout at the gym.
  6. I made myself a homemade soy latte with my new Keurig Rivo machine and saved both a trip to Starbucks and over $4! If I continue to do this daily, I'm $28 richer for the week, $112 for the month, and $1,344 for the year! I'll recoup the cost of the machine ($199.99) in no time.
  7. I just spent a wonderful week celebrating my birthday with family and longtime dear friends.
  8. I took a lovely and fragrant bubble bath.
  9. I talked to my mom and exchanged emails with my children and husband.
  10. I will get a chance when I'm finished working to go outside and take a walk.

OK, now it's your turn. If you tell me what makes you smile, you're bound to make me—and everyone else reading this—break out into one big smile.

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This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.


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