written by erica quam
I heard a new statistic from my yoga teacher this week: most adults these days smile less than 20 times a day. Kids on the other hand smile 400 or more times a day.
What's going on? I think more and more adults spend a lot of time stressed and worried: dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Kids are much better at living in the moment.
Why does a smile matter? Well, from a physiological standpoint, when we smile we can actually reduce the cortisol levels in our bodies. Cortisol is released by the adrenal gland during the fight or flight response. When we are constantly stressed and worried, our body doesn't know the difference between real stress and perceived stress. It just does what it's supposed to - and prepares us for a fight.
This can lead to a downward spiral of negative effects on the body: a suppressed immune system, migraines, high blood pressure, muscle tension, problems with digestion, elimination, migraine headaches, and the list goes on.
A smile is a simple way for the BODY to change the MIND. We don't have to leave it all up to willpower. Can't muster up a smile? Amy Cuddy talks about putting a pencil in your mouth in her TED Talk about body language. It has the same effect on the body as smiling! We can all at least do that!
Another way for the body to change the mind is to change your posture. Two minutes of what Cuddy calls, a "power pose," can increase the level of testosterone in the body by 20% - which also decreases the stress & fear hormone: cortisol. When you increase testosterone you feel more confident, courageous, and even stay more relaxed.
Even if you don't feel confident, courageous, or relaxed...raising your arms up, raising your head up, and improving your posture will have the same effects.
So...the next time you are nervous, worried, or anxious...act "as if" and practice your power pose.
Do you need more of a routine to follow? Try some yoga. So many yoga poses work to improve our posture.
So: change your body, change your mind...change your mind, change your behavior...change your behavior, change your life!
Try observing yourself over the next few days. Count your smiles. Laugh more. Begin to notice when you are worried, anxious, or stressed.
When you are, find something to smile about...or put a pencil in your mouth, raise your arms up, and see what happens! What do you have to lose?