Theresa Cheung, author of 21 Rituals to Change Your Life, invites you to try a simple ritual for 21 days and find out how small actions can change your life.
You are never fully dressed without a smile is how the saying goes and morning ritual number five completely agrees. We often think of a smile as a natural response to feel good emotions but did you know that smiling – even if that smile is fake – can boost your mood and reduce stress? Research done by psychology and facial coding expert Paul Ekman and backed up by recent research* published in Psychological Science found that a big smile that involves facial muscle activity around the eyes can produce a change in brain activity and mood.
All this research points to one simple but wonderful conclusion: smiling will make you feel better. (Frowns actually have the opposite effect) If you don’t feel like smiling that doesn’t matter because, as I’ll explain later, faking a smile that involves eye and mouth muscles will still work, and especially so if you do it to yourself in the mirror as there is great power in looking at your own reflection. So ritual #5 asks you to look in the mirror every morning and give yourself the gift of a great big smile.
A guide to smiling
For the next three weeks at least once a day be sure to look at yourself in a mirror, look yourself directly in the eyes, stand tall and meet yourself with the biggest of smiles.
Practise so that your smile involves both the corners of your mouth and your eye sockets. Remember that the brain picks up on facial muscle movement and even if you don’t feel great it will invoke positive emotions in some way. Then during the day bring your new smile out as often as you can. Even do it when you work or talk on the phone. People sense when someone is smiling when they talk to you and can’t see you
Practising smiling in the mirror can feel a little embarrassing at first but if that is your roadblock think about this: scientific research confirms how powerful practising smiling can be for improving mood and performance. Don’t let embarrassment, especially when nobody is looking but yourself, block your progress.
If you think you are a bit like Victoria Beckham and you don’t think a smile flatters you there are ways to work around that. If you look at Mrs Beckham’s photos she may not be smiling but there is a still a smile there in her facial muscles. There is a hint of a smile and her eyes (if they are not hidden by sunglasses) are laughing. Of course, a great big smile is more beneficial but if this is a step too far for you take inspiration from the Mona Lisa. There is a reason why this painted has captured the imagination for centuries. It is all about that enigmatic hint or glimpse of a smile. Every morning as you get dressed and ready for the day take a moment to look in the mirror and practise your smile, Mona Lisa style if that feels more you.
How to ritualise your smile
If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it. The simple act of practising smiling in front of the mirror becomes ritualised when you combine that with visualisation that has deep meaning for you. So before you do your morning smile remember a time in your life when you were really happy, in love or feeling very satisfied and fulfilled. Not only will this ritualise what you are doing by filling it with deep meaning it will also increase the likelihood of your smile being real and genuine.
Theresa Cheung was born into a family of psychics and spiritualists. Since leaving King’s College, Cambridge University with a masters in Theology and English she has written numerous bestselling mind body spirit books, including two Sunday Times Top-Ten bestsellers. Her books have been translated into over 25 languages and her Element Encyclopedias of Dreams, Birthdays and The Psychic World have become international bestsellers with their own Barnes and Noble editions. She has also written features on personal growth and spiritual development for magazines and national newspapers and has now sold well over half a million books. Theresa has a thriving author page on Facebook and her website is: www.theresacheung.com.
21 Rituals to Change Your Life
£7.99, available from Watkins Publishing