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The Power of a Smile

October 10, 2010

Sometimes the stresses of life and of parenting can really affect your mood. While learning effective stress management strategies can be an ongoing, long-term process, sometimes having some quick strategies for a temporary mood booster can be very helpful in the moment.

For myself, I’ve learned a great deal over my years of practicing yoga how small adjustments in my body can alter my mood. Often an instructor will simply say, “Now smile,” and the whole experience of the pose changes.

The benefits of exercise (Biddle, 2000; Byrne & Byrne, 1993) on mood and mental health have been well-established in the psychological research. In addition, the power of manipulating facial expressions to influence mood (Izard, 1990) has also been observed. Lately, I’ve been trying to stop and smile, especially if I don’t have time in my schedule for exercise at the moment that I’m feeling that I need it. It really is impressive how that simple act can lift my spirits. Granted, the feeling doesn’t last all day, but it’s such a powerful yet simple tool that we can all use.

This article published in Time last year discusses some of the benefits of smiling and also includes a link to some photos of simple facial exercises you can do (links says “see pictures of facial yoga” in second half of article). While they describe the benefits of the exercises in terms of the muscles they tighten and the benefits for physical appearance, I would encourage you to try them to see how they affect your mood. Additionally, some of these things can be so silly to do that they are perfect for including young children and lifting the entire family’s spirits or breaking up a negative interaction you may have found yourselves in.

…And don’t forget about TOT YOGA as a great family activity for parents and little ones.


Biddle, S. (2000) Exercise, emotions, and mental health. In Y. L. Hanin (Ed.), Emotions in sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Pp. 267-291.
Byrne, A., & Byrne, D. G. 1993. The effect of exercise on depression, anxiety and other mood states: a review. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 37, 565-574.

Izard, C. E. (1990). Facial expressions and the regulation of emotions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(3), 487-498. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.58.3.487


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