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Natural Awakenings Richmond

Letter from the Publisher, September/October 2021

Sep 01, 2021 07:00AM ● By Jessica Coffey
Publisher of Natural Awakenings Richmond, Jessica Coffey

Jessica Coffey, Publisher

It’s hard to believe that summer has come to an end, school is back in session and we are heading into fall. Time is such a crazy thing; minutes and hours can sometimes creep by as the days, months and years zip along. And just like that, my two babies are in their junior and senior years of college, our lovely German exchange student who celebrated her sweet 16 in our home in 2010 is expecting her first baby and life rolls right along. Our biggest task is to figure out how to roll right along with it. Accepting the highs and the lows. Being as present as we can in the moment and with those we are with. It is not always easy, especially with the stressors surrounding us in regards to the mercurial state of the pandemic and the ways in which different people respond to it. It can be overwhelming. I wish I had the cure—for the virus, for the angst, for the divisiveness.

The one thing I know for sure is that when I wake up and show up with a positive outlook and attitude, things go so much better. That means I need to make sure I am nourishing my body, mind and spirit with rest, healthy food, hydration, exercise, meditation/prayer, connection, time in nature, mental stimulation, gratitude … all of the things this wonderful magazine shares and promotes. It’s not easy to do all of it all of the time, but having good intentions and trying your best is half the battle. And sometimes, I just need to trick myself into it. One way to do that is by smiling. Yes, lifting up the corners of your mouth can shift your mood. Try it right now. Then read this wonderful article, Smiling Can Make Us Happier, by Julie Peterson…

A smile makes the brain happy. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter if we smile at first because we’re genuinely happy or if we simply fake a smile. The brain doesn’t know the difference.

When we are happy, we naturally smile. But research has shown that the act of smiling can also induce happiness. It happens because the muscles required to lift the mouth into the shape of a smile are connected to nerves that send signals to the brain. Once the brain gets the message that a smile is happening, it releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin throughout the body. These feel-good chemicals make us feel less stressed, less pain and happier, which can effortlessly transform a fake smile into a genuine one.

Platitudes through the ages have urged us to “Turn that frown upside down” and “Put on a happy face.” In 1872, Charles Darwin hypothesized that facial feedback could alter emotions and, ever since, the topic of smiling and mood has been a subject of discussion and research. Whether or not forced smiles can have a strong enough impact on our state of mind to effectively boost overall mental health is still being debated, with some research indicating that “false” smiles can lower mood if used continuously to avoid expressing certain feelings; however, there are several more positive aspects of smiling to take into consideration.

Smiling is contagious. Seeing other people smile stimulates our mirror neurons; they discharge similarly whether we’re doing an action or observing someone else do it. So being around smiling people, seeing them smile, affects our brains as if we were doing the smiling.

Smiling also provides the health benefits of reduced anxiety and lowers both blood pressure and heart rate. Over the long haul, these attributes add up to improved cardiovascular health and a measurable reduction in risk for stroke.

Get more smile time by working these muscles at every opportunity. Fake it if you must until it comes naturally, watch funny shows, spend time with cheery people and when things are looking down, grin and bear it. You might just feel better right away, and better long-term health is certainly something to smile about.

Happy Reading and Happy Smiles! 

Warmly, Jessica
2021 Healthy Living Guide
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