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The importance of “the smile”: A Mindful Practice







by:

L.T. Force, Ph.D.

Gerontologist



The importance of “the smile”. It hit me last week. I can’t believe I have missed it. I can’t believe I haven’t paid attention to this before. I realized with all of my training in psychology - on the undergraduate and graduate level - there was never a mention of….or theory that I was exposed to - that highlighted the importance of: “the smile”.


Practice Modality:

In my practice, my orientation is: “Short-term Psychotherapy”. My practice-intervention is based upon a: “solution-focused modality - grounded in a a ‘here and now’ paradigm”:

( https://www.sfbta.org). I tell  my clients in the first session (what I call:”the landscape session” - where you find out ‘who is who’, ‘what is what’, and ‘why they are in search of psychotherapy’?”I begin the conversation by assuring them, the confidentiality of this discussion….the only two things that will pierce this “confidentiality shield” is if they tell me that they are  going to hurt themselves or hurt somebody else. I reassure them, the beauty of the therapeutic relationship is that all of this discussion and exchange remains confidential. I begin the exchange by letting them know:  “I’m not your hero. I can’t fix you. The reason I can’t fix you is because you’re not broken… because ‘we all have stuff’”.  I also share with them my belief: “ the best therapist you can find…. is one you forget….because you re-engage with the rhythm of your own life”. I also emphasize: “if you want to change….then you need to act as though you want to change”. I base this approach on the work of Dr. Albert Ellis - with his Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) framework: (https://albertellis.org/rebt-cbt-therapy/) Dr. Ellis provides an example of a man that comes into see him, The client is dealing with an addictive alcohol problem. The client keeps on saying that he wants to stop drinking and Albert Ellis‘s “New York Style” (very deliberate and direct) of delivering psychotherapy - then says: “then stop”. Again, sounds simple because it is simple.


So yes, if you want to change, there is value in “making change”, for example: increase your exercise, adopt healthy eating habits, begin to use a meditation and mindfulness practice…. all good practices and rituals. However, one ritual or practice, that I think we’re missing, or  at least I missed personally and professionally is:” the importance of practicing a smile….and the importance of practicing the smile can begin instantaneous….try it. There are so many benefits associated with “the smile”: decrease in blood pressure, reduction of heart rate, release and increase of endorphins, reduction of stress,  etc…. and this intervention is available immediately!


As I have stated, what is interesting enough to me - is that in providing recommendations to my clients, or lectures to my students, I reference the importance that if the person wants to change: “then they need to act as though they want to change” and by doing so: “incorporate exercise, go to the gym, ride a bike, walk, practice meditation, or mindfulness, pay attention to their nutrition, their hydration, their sleep pattern….etc”.  But what I now realize , I missed something that can have an immediate impact and that is: “the practice of a smile”. I know it sounds simple…. because it is simple. But I realize as I look around my world…. the people that smile seem to be in a better state of emotionality….as it is increases interpersonal connectivity…. and it can be done immediately….and like a yawn…. it’s contagious.


A “smile matters” ….. if you have any doubts….try it now!


****

Endnote:


  • In my practice, and in my personal life, I have developed a: “mindful practice”….and it is a practice….a practice that takes time, effort and work….but it is worth it!. I now use a text-based platform, Mindfultext, as a learning platform to guide my mindfulness practice. I find it to be of tremendous value: www.mindfultext.com


  • I have a dear friend that when sending an email or correspondence - she always completes the e-mail with one word on her signature-line: “Smiles”. I have come to realize - she is on to something and there is value to be found in her recommendation.


  • In summary, maybe in combining all of this information we begin the practice of a: Mindful  Smile”….an activity that is deliberate….an activity that will immediately make you feel better about yourself….and about the people around you. The “Mindful Smile” has many health benefits….and ‘immediately centers’ us on the ‘here and now’ and ‘the present’.


Try it….practice it….and then try it again!



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