Can You Hack Your Bad Mood With Smiling Meditation?



Smiling Mediation. Yes, it’s a thing.

And yes, that’s me sitting in front of a ton of clothes that need to be folded on a bed that needs to be made. On this particular day, I was truly NOT about that domestic life.

Remember way back in 2010 when a not-so-little movie called Eat, Pray, Love starring Julie Roberts came out based on a book of the same title by Elizabeth Gilbert? It was one of those movies and books that people either really loved or really hated.

I personally took a lot from the movie. So much so that I decided to later actually read the book and a couple of others by Elizabeth as a result of it. And in full disclosure, I fell in love with her writing and spirit so much that I was about two clicks away from booking a weekend retreat at a yoga center she was scheduled to be conducting over the summer. No, I did not end up going much to my own disappointment.

One of the most memorable parts of the movie that stuck in my head after all these years involved Julia Roberts, (who played Elizabeth), in a seated meditation forcibly smiling as instructed by her meditation teacher Ketut while she was in Bali. And FYI, Ketut is a real person. Click here to check out a video where he talks about Elizabeth.



Check the clip out below for a complete understanding of the scene.


According to him, this simple meditation required her to “sit in silence and smile…smile with face, smile with mind, and even smile with liver” as said in the movie. It sounds easy, but it surely is not.

Now I bring this all up in this post titled “Can You Hack Your Bad Mood By Smiling With Intention?” because it was the basis of my personal experiment to see if it actually worked.

Could I stop or reverse a particularly sh*tty mood by simply sitting in silence and smiling, even when there’s virtually nothing to smile about?

As I mentioned in my post How I Overcame My Fear of Meditation & Healed Myself, it took a long time to accept meditation as a method of relaxation and internal reflection. This was because of a lot of beliefs I held from my family and/or childhood. However, I now incorporate it into my regular self-care practices. It helps calm my mind and stop the little monkey that controls my thoughts from jumping around too much preventing me from being more productive.

However, smiling meditation was foreign to me other than the clip that I remembered from Eat, Pray, Love.

What’s The Big Deal About Smiling Meditation Anyway?

Ever heard of the saying, “Fake it Til You Make It”?

Well, this is kind of the premise. When you smile even if it’s fake, you start to change your brain.

Sounds kind of woo-woo hippy dippy, right?

Nope! It’s the truth. According to this article on Psychology Today:

“Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.”

“For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress.”

“The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well (4). This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever – 100% organically and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions (4). Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter (5).”


So a simple smile paired with the a stillness to allow it’s effects to spread through the body definitely has the potential to reverse or prevent a bad mood.

So I decided to put this to the test.

I sat, and smiled. And sat, and smiled. And guess what? It’s pretty hard to sit and keep a smile on your face. Yes, you think you look crazy and are probably happy that no one is watching.

But guess what’s happening while all of this is going through your mind? Your mood starts to change. Instinctually, I started to giggle about the fact that I looked like an idiot. I stopped thinking about whatever brought the bad mood on and started concentrating on keeping aforementioned smile on my face. Little by little, I started to feel less agitated. After 5-10 minutes, I started to feel the slight glimmer of not full on happiness but something that wasn’t too far off from it.

So, yeah, it worked.

No, it doesn’t work every single time and yes, you may have to do it for short periods of time during the course of the day (5 minutes here and there), to maintain your better mood. Nonetheless, it is seems like an effective natural method to hack your brain for good…mood that is.

Have you every heard of smiling meditation? Leave a comment below letting me know if you’ve tried it or would in the future?



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