2 mindful minutes: Magic Smile

The position of a turtle’s head and limbs is influenced by its perception of a hunter coming towards it. Similarly, the muscles of your face are influenced by your perception of stress. When your mind senses that an awful lot of stress is coming your way, your facial muscles start to tighten up, like the turtle moving back into its shell. The moment your mind feels relaxed, the muscles start to loosen up and even make you smile, just like the turtle who comes out of its shell when the hunter is not around.

This relationship works the other way round as well, at least for our facial muscles. If we make the muscles of our face relax and stretch deliberately by smiling, the mind feels more relaxed and happy(1, 2).

Do it for 2 minutes without judgement with a full mental focus on your facial muscles. Maybe do this when no one is looking, or you might make them feel scared by your sudden sustained scary smile. Your magical smile will tell your mind that you are okay and generate happy chemicals in your brain.

Is being mindful for just 2 minutes impossible for you?

  1. Marmolejo-Ramos F, Murata A, Sasaki K, Yamada Y, Ikeda A, Hinojosa JA, Watanabe K, Parzuchowski M, Tirado C, Ospina R. Your Face and Moves Seem Happier When I Smile. Exp Psychol. 2020 Jan;67(1):14–22. doi: 10.1027/1618–3169/a000470. Epub 2020 May 11. PMID: 32394814.
  2. Coles NA, Larsen JT, Lench HC. A meta-analysis of the facial feedback literature: Effects of facial feedback on emotional experience are small and variable. Psychol Bull. 2019 Jun;145(6):610–651. doi: 10.1037/bul0000194. Epub 2019 Apr 11. PMID: 30973236.

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Dr Shah Tarfarosh

Dr Shah Tarfarosh

Psychiatrist | Teaching Fellow @Oxford | Alumni @Cambridge | Emotional Intelligence Speaker | Innovator | Mental Fitness Awareness | Views = own,≠medical advice