Half Smiling

Half smile. Try it as you read this. Take a deep breath. Rest in the moment. Allow the corner of your mouth to gently turn upward. Just slightly. It doesn’t have to be a full fledged smile. It is more like a ‘Mona Lisa’ smile. Allow your facial muscles to relax. Allow your shoulders to drop. Give a half smile. Sink into the relaxed moment. Notice how you feel as you allow your facial muscles to let a peek of a smile out. This little action changes your facial expression. This half-smile spreads to the whole face, your scalp, your neck and your shoulders, physiologically stimulating a serene feeling. Not only does it allow you to relax and let down a bit, it has the potential to change your mood into a more positive state.

This half-smile technique comes from our Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Emotions are the combination of thoughts, sensations and behaviors. Changing one of those components can alter the course of the emotion. When we feel joy, we naturally smile. When we smile, we may feel joy. The muscles of changing your expression in this subtle way send information to the emotional part of the brain. Using this little, but significant, tool can improve your mood after only 10 minutes of half smiling. If after trying this subtle, tiny smile for 10 minutes, you don’t notice a change in your mood, then try adding this – smile with your eyes.

Research suggests that smiling is good for your health, affects your stress levels and productivity, may help you live longer, improves your relationships, improves effectiveness in the workplace and improves your mood. (McGinley, 2018) I am not talking about the need to paste a smile on your face. I am talking about just giving yourself a bit of encouragement with this slight smile, which can help you access the serenity within. Give it a try. When you aren’t in the mood, add a half-smile. Use your mindful attention to keep it going. Put the half smile on.  Notice if your mood changes and become aware of feeling more peace and joy within you. This little gift is for you. Use it to handle a stressful situation, change a mood, manage a difficult interaction. Use it to just send positive vibes out into your environment. Use it to make you feel good. Half smile.

Works Cited:
McGinley, K. (2018, December 19). https://chopra.com/articles/smiling-is-powerful-medicine-research-on-how-smiling-can-improve-your-health-and
Retrieved from Chopra.com.

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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