Increase Our Daily Smiles: One smile is worth more than we can imagine. More are even better. | Culture Features | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Increase Our Daily Smiles: One smile is worth more than we can imagine. More are even better. 

More are even better.

I just finished my morning prayers and dance-exercise routine. A soft smile has found its way onto my face, which, for whatever reasons, wasn't there when I first opened my eyes. Smiles are often not there as we make the transition into the daylight.

My daily mind-body-spirit practice predictably exposes a few gems of light that coax out my smiles. That's why we do them. These age-old practices of movement and prayer have magical ways to massage away many of our nighttime shadows.

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Fresh snow is sparkling outside our living room window as I sit down to write this message. More snow is predicted later today, and then lots of rain for the latter part of the week. We need the moisture badly! When it rains down here in town in winter, it's almost certain to be snowing up toward the mountains. Snow is something many of us Bendites smile about. Snow has its magical way of inducing smiles with skiing of all kinds, snowshoeing quietly through the trees, snowmobiling, sledding, snowball fights, building snow men...what a list!

Wendy and I are smiling a lot these days after arriving in Bend one year ago, December. We can now officially call ourselves Bendites and Nordic ski just a few miles up the hill.

I chose this topic, Increase Our Daily Smiles, for an important reason. As some of you already know, I have been a counselor for 45 years. Why do any of us initially seek counseling? It is for ONE reason and ONE reason only. Our smile-to-frown ratio is out of whack. And it's out of whack enough to deliver a message that says, "Enough already!" We all have different levels of tolerance for an out-of-balance ratio and different solutions for returning to a healthier level.

Let's talk about the smile side of this critical but rarely discussed psycho-emotional metric. We'll save the frown side for another day. The question today is: How do I increase my smiles from the time I arise in the morning to the time I turn off the lights at night? That is the question—and there are, thankfully, an infinite number of excellent answers.

Let's start with right now. Are you ready?

Why start with right now? Because smiles happen in the now. Now is always the time for smiling. Not back then, not later today—but now. Always remember this simple, underutilized wisdom:

Now is the only time to smile.

Let's do some warmup smiles. Nothing fancy. Gentle. Like warming up before a game. Nobody has to even know we're doing it. We'll hold each smile for five seconds, then release. Feel the smile throughout your body. We'll do three gentle warmup smiles.

Now take a breath.

A breath or two or five, into your belly, is always a good way to return to the now. It's magic.

We're in this together, everybody, big time. You, me and everyone who sees your warm, joyful smile. Smiles can go on and on and on—for generations. We can never accurately measure a smile's immeasurable duration.

Also, remember: your smile impacts you and my smile impacts me. We feel our own smiles. When we smile, our brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides that help fight off stress. Other neurotransmitters come into play. Some trigger mild pain relievers while others function as antidepressants.

Wow! A simple smile activates all this stuff in our brains. That is cool—and our smiles even activate others to smile. That is some big power, and big power is always a big responsibility. Think about it. Could you bring more smiles into the world? Probably.

Frowns are important. They are often telling us we need to communicate something that has been rattling around in our brain. There is something important but difficult that needs to be shared. Most of us could use help in this sensitive area. Communicating our hurts effectively is one of the most beneficial life skills we can learn.

Smile when we wake up in the morning. Smile when we go to sleep at night. Smile at the sky. Smile at the trees. Smile at the rain, the moon, the stars, your dinner...smile at everyone.

There is a time and a place for our non-smiling emotions—but let's keep the ratio leaning toward the smile side.

Most of us have some work to do.

Let's do it!

And blessings on all of our journeys!

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