Those among us who have already experiences in their lives how laughing can transform their emotions and sustain their well-being have also probably observed that the authentic smile coming from a friend or even from a stranger in the street is contagious and has the power to lift our spirits and to free us, at least temporarily, from the restrictions imposed by stress and negativity. Such a smile can effectively transform our emotional and physiological alchemy. It can bring us a new energy and a new vision. It can help us to accept and to remember who we are really, in part or in whole. Nevertheless, strangely, very little has been written on the chemistry of the smile and on its relationship with the healing process.
The Inner Smile
With the empirical proofs we have on the extraordinary power of the smile to trigger such changes, it is surprising that so few of us smile intentionally. Taoist masters have long known the power of the smile to transform behaviours and energies. Their observations have led them to put in practice what Mantak Chia calls the «Inner Smile». With this meditation, we learn to smile directly to our organs, our tissues and our glands. We can even smile to our fat when we do the Weight Loss exercises because it activates even more the fall cells. The Taoist masters say that: «When you smile. Your organs produce a nectar similar to honey that nourishes the whole body. When you are angry, when you are afraid or when you are stressed, your organs produce a toxic liquid that blocks your energy in your meridians and induce loss of appetite, indigestion, high blood pressure, high blood pulse, insomnia and negative emotions. When you smile to your organs, they expand, become supple and lubricated, and thus more efficient.» The Inner Smile is also used in various taoist meditations and practices, including Tai Chi. Its concept is also found under various versions in Boudhist writings (Thich Nhat Hanh books) and in works of art like Mona Lisa, Boudha’s statues, which all have a conscious smile.
Smiling voluntarily can transform your emotional state
Plain common sense and observation allow us to rapidly realize that smiling can help us to transform our emotional state. In his book entitled The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin observed that the free expression of an emotion with exterior signs is used to intensify this emotion. The writings of William James, this famous psychologist of the late 19th century, have set some norms on the subject saying that our emotions depend on the «feeling of a body state». By changing the state or the expression of our body, our emotions change. More recetnly, Moshe Feldenkrais, one of the top leaders in the field of physical rehabilitation and body consciousness, wrote that « all of our emotions are linked to the stimulation coming from the autonomous or vegetative nervous system, or from our organs, muscles, etc. controlled by this system. When these pulsations arrive in the superior centers of the central nervous system, it is felt as an emotion. » When we modify the stimulations coming from these parts of our body with a conscious change of movement or posture, we also transform our emotions, in particular those associated with the image we have from us.
But we could object that there is a big difference between a natural smile and a voluntary smile. In fact, in a recent scientific study analyzing the effects of different types of smiles and their impact on brain activity, two researchers have discovered that the voluntary smile effectively changes brain activity, and it does so in the same manner as does a spontaneous smile. Commenting their discovery, these researchers conclude in this way: «While it is generally considered that emotions happen to humans unexpectedely, our discovery seem to imply that it is possible for human beings to modify certain physiological changes happening while they experiment a spontaneous emotion by simply adopting a facial expression.»
So, now, smile... and observe.