Why Bother To Smile More?

Why Bother To Smile More?

Practicing balancing poses in yoga is not an easy feat. Standing on one foot or on one’s head takes concentrated effort. Oftentimes when I focus too hard on mastering a balance pose I fall out of it and then realize two of my biggest mistakes. First of all, I am taking myself too seriously and secondly, I am holding my breath. 

      Go Ahead and Grin

 Normally, when a sequence of balancing poses are practiced in a yoga class, the teachers are well aware of the tension that builds up inside everyone. They understand how difficult the poses can be and that our balance varies from day to day. They also know how strongly everyone wants to succeed at these poses and for this reason they often remind students to smile and breathe. Other instructors will say to embrace the wobbles. In other words, when tempted to take a pose too seriously, we are reminded to lighten up. 

These cues —to smile, breathe and embrace the wobbles— are good reminders for people with personalities such as mine. I know I can be a little competitive, even with my yoga practice. I am also somewhat obsessed with an urgency that becomes an intense and pulsating force of energy. I get impatient quickly and  have a tendency to equate self-worth with achievement. People like myself have a difficult time embracing the wobbles, let alone smiling when doing something hard. We just want to perfect our poses.

Smiling more often might be helpful, but it is not easy to do when one is focused on a demanding task. It takes a conscious effort. But, when I do remember to smile, whether when attempting to stand on one leg or working hard to teach fourth graders a new math concept, I notice instant changes taking place in my body.

First of all, my sense of urgency leaves my body and I feel my shoulders drop away from my ears. My voice softens and slows down. The wrinkles in my forehead smooth themselves out and the tension in my head dissipates. Finally, I remember to breathe. 

Not only does my body change, but anyone in close proximity changes too. When I smile, they do as well. So much goodness from simply changing the shape of my face. 

Why bother to smile more? It is worth it to change the shape of our face from a tense expression to a wide grin. After all, when we do, we can change our whole world. 

Why Bother Admitting Our Cheerlessness?

Why Bother Admitting Our Cheerlessness?

Although we are led to believe that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” for some, it is the most difficult time of the year. Pushing through the holiday hailstorm of heightened emotions, unrealistic expectations, or fictitious happy family gatherings is humanly impossible. Those who already wrestle with mental maladies such as depression, or seasonal active disorder can hardly grin or bear up under such pressures. Even mentally fit folks find Christmas daunting and spreading good cheer, a tiring chore. But, perhaps if we take time to consider our customs and traditions and then decide which ones brighten or dim our hearts, then perhaps we can replace some of the cheerlessness with cheer.

To Keep or Not To Keep?

I grew up with a variety of Christmas customs, one that included attending midnight mass the night before Christmas. Each dark and snowy Christmas Eve, my parents bundled and carted all seven of us to church. Though I am sure their intentions were good, these outings did not leave me with joy. Instead of adding meaning to the season, it turned most members of my family into cranky, tired and combative individuals. As a result, I chose not to hold onto this tradition. Instead, when I had my own family, we found an easier way to honor the true meaning of Christmas while not missing any sleep. It seems that a rested family is a more joyful family. 

My grandma baked, decorated and gave out flawless Christmas cookies. I am not the patient artist she was, but I still like to bake and give away cookies. It is an opportunity for me to  trek through my neighborhood, ring doorbells and chat with new and old acquaintances. I find it is a win-win tradition. I get the pleasure of wishing my neighbors a merry Christmas while they enjoy a sweet treat in return. 

Christmas, more than any other holiday, seems to hold opportunities for countless entertainment—pageants, musicals, plays and parties. It is also a season in which we can learn to compromise with those we love. Understanding that not everyone wants to watch yet another Christmas play, attend another Christmas party or even listen to Christmas music will bring peace and harmony into any household. Staying tuned to the wishes of each other during this season is a simple way to spread good cheer.

Why bother admitting to cheerlessness? It is worth recognizing when our traditions dim instead of brighten our hearts. When we do, then we can choose to replace them with ones that bring comfort and joy.