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Smile Anatomy: Emotional Self Regulation and Facial Expression Muscle Measurement and Training

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Progressive Smile Activation

This is a great exercise to do in a group, but is also useful to practice on a regular basis to build your smile reflex speed and strength.

Begin by turning on your zygomaticus. Pump a little zygomaticus iron for a few repetitions. Relax a few moments. Next, Start with activating your zygomaticus and add your lateral inferior (outer lower eye) orbicularis oculi and smile with eye eyes, making them twinkle. Pump this a few times. Next, start with the zygomaticus and eye-smile activation and add lower mouth, showing your teeth smiling. You can just add Mentalis and next Platysma, or take a short cut and do them together. Next, use your levator superioris to raise your upper lip and show your upper teeth. Make sure during all of this that you are not squeezing the rest of your eyes or corrugator or any muscles that have not been specified. Next, pull your head back, like you do when you really laugh. Next, breath from your abdomen.

Next, move your arms and move your body from side to side. Add laughter or silly sounds and let yourself really loosen up enough to get silly and playful. You may want to experiment with tightening only one side of a pair of muscles. Try adding the nasalis and naris muscles-- flare your nostrils and scrunch up your nose. Remember, Duchenne suggested that was the muscle of lust and lasciviousness. See what feelings you experience when you use these muscles. Look at the activity in the mirror. What does it look like to you? Even better, do this exercise looking at someone else who does the exercise with you. This exercise was inspired by the work of Colorado Psychiatrist Christian Hegaseth, author of The Laughing Place.

Self Administered Smile Nerve Blocks

In case after case, depressed, angry and stressed patients have appeared to be creating their own upper smile pathway nerve block. Camille Palumbo, a counselor at Jefferson Medical Univ. calls this smile psychomotor retardation. Paul Fair, an Atlanta psychologist treated facial paralysis patients at Emory Univ. He found that the first thing he had to teach these patients was deep relaxation, so they could control the sometimes bizarre grimaces they would produce while attempting to smile. (I've often seen similar grimaces in normal, non-paralyzed people.) The facial paralysis patients would come in for two hour treatment sessions three times a week for several months. They were very motivated, and even small results helped them to feel much better about themselves and their appearances.

If you take just a little time to practice strengthening your smile reflex, you'll be helping yourself in several ways. First, you'll be better prepared to quickly smile into connecting with PE opportunities that present themselves to you. Second, you'll begin to develop a smiling face as your resting muscle tone for your face. Third, at a pre-conscious level, you'll begin processing and filtering your experiences with a better attitude that your smiling face sets up reverberating throughout your body.

Patients can practice smile exercises almost anywhere. I usually combine them with my aerobic workout and my exercises on weight machines and Nautilus equipment, when I'm driving and when I shave in front of a mirror. I recommend they try to "pump smile iron" at least three times a day, doing sets of six muscle tensings. If you don't see immediate results, and most people do, persevere. Remember the flicker factor and relax to allow good feelings to pop in as a conditioned response.

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One theme has run through my work for the past 40 plus years-- a desire to play a role in waking people up, raising their consciousness and empowering them. I was the organizer founder of the Winter Brain, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology and StoryCon Meetings and president of Futurehealth, Inc., with interests in (more...)

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