Mindfulness is the process of paying attention to what’s happening, whilst it’s happening, on purpose and without judgement or preference. It can help us to improve our focus and concentration; become more aware of what’s happening in our minds and bodies; become less reactive to situations outside of our control; and to become kinder and more compassionate toward those in our daily life. Two key ingredients form the foundation of mindfulness: awareness and acceptance.
Why the smile?
It is important to cultivate an attitude of kindly curiosity in our mindfulness practice. There is no point noticing that we are constantly distracted by our thoughts if we can’t let ourselves off the hook for that, and be compassionate to ourselves – our brains work the way they do because they have evolved this way over thousands of years! Smiling releases neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which make us feel happier, relax our body, lower our heart rate and blood pressure, act as natural pain relievers, and lower our stress levels.
Smiling is used in a number of meditation practices by teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese buddist monk and peace activist, and Tara Brach, the psychologist and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, and compassion practices are built in right from the start of the MBLC courses that I teach.
"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." ~Thich Nhat Hanh