Sometimes we can get in our own way by striving too hard or taking life too seriously. Smiling and lightening up can be beneficial for both physical and mental health. Having an inner smile means we’re greeting our experience with more kindness and openness. As Thich Nhat Hahn says, “You need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” Holding an inner smile also reminds us to keep a sense of humor and avoid being too hard on ourselves.
You can maintain an inner smile in everyday life as well as during formal practices such as yoga, prayer, or meditation; gently smile to yourself, with kindness, appreciation, and a sense of perspective.
- Gently smile to yourself.
- The smile is not so much a physical gesture, but is more of a gentle, internal smile.
- Let this smile remind you not to strive too hard or criticize yourself. Also, let it make your thoughts, words, and deeds more gentle and accepting.
- Be mindful of what it’s like to maintain this gentle smile, and notice if any reactions arise.
- If you notice that you have become caught up in striving or struggling, remember to smile. See if you can find any humor in your thoughts or experience.
- Also, if you notice strong thoughts, emotions, or sensations arise that are particularly challenging, see if you can meet them with a smile. You are not denying them or resisting them. You are just opening to the possibility that these experiences are not your true identify, and you are much more than them.
- Practice “smiling” at difficult situations or relationships to honor and acknowledge them with friendliness. Notice what happens when you do this.
Holding an inner smile is taught in Daoism, Mahayana Buddhism, and also by Buddhist meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.