The muscles and fascia of the face are the mechanism that tells our system how we feel about what we experience. From tiny facial movements we create how we feel about “life”.
Try this – Look at something about which you have no “emotional attachment” – Maybe a wall, or curtain – or a box – unless of course you have a box fetish (i’m sure someone does somewhere – you’ll find no judgement here, enjoy those boxes) – When you look at it, smile and pay attention to how you feel. Now stop smiling, “pull” (adopt) a ” straight face” and now see how you feel. Did you feel the difference? This is a very basic example of how those movements of the face create how we feel “emotionally” – our “mood”. Over a longer time, our mood becomes our behaviour.
This goes as far as lessening pain when we are hurt or injured. What we “tell” our body about what we feel from bashing our toe or overstretching a muscle has an impact on both the pain we feel and how quickly we heal. While I’m not suggesting for one minute that it’s easy to smile when you are hurt, try it next time you are and see what happens. “Wincing” can certainly bring an initial burst of resources to the area which is much required but continuing to wince creates a great deal of restricted movement in that area and others, something to be very mindful of as we recover from any “trauma”.
“Pulling” a “straight” face has a similar and yet noticeably different effect, hence the expression “stiff upper lip”). As much as i hope you don’t have a need for this, if you should hurt yourself and happen to remember to pull a straight face, I will wager that it hurts less within moments. This applies to “e-motional” pain too as it”s the same energy being interpreted in a certain way.
Information comes into the system (the human mindbody – “us”) in many ways – Essentially, in the form of what we will call energy for the purposes of this article. This takes many forms, existing at many different frequencies – our frequency dictating what information we receive and how we interpret it. This information is in food, in the light entering our eyes, in “vibes” given off by other people and all around us in “the ether” – It is everywhere.
How we react to this information is where the magic happens. One persons interpretation being different to the next – Your interpretation (potentially, depending on how you “feel”) on one day being different to the next. As we experienced above, with the same information (the wall, or curtain), we felt differently because of the expression that was created with our face. This is because the facial muscles are connected to the nervous system via the facial nerve and trigeminal nerve (and so on), which send huge amounts of information into the system, telling it what to produce chemically (pineal gland, pituitary etc) and therefore how to feel, allowing us to respond appropriately. If you smiled at the proverbial sabre toothed tiger that we hear so much about when talking about fight or flight, your body would not produce the necessary chemistry to enable you to take off really fast – Maybe your smile would soothe the big cat and there would be no need to run as it purred, making “flight” unnecessary but you get the idea.
All very well you might say but i can’t just change my face, i’m not John Travolta (movie reference for those not aware of the surely Oscar winning Face Off – I missed the Oscars that year so i’m not sure if it won – Come to think of it, i’ve “missed” them every year).
You can – Or at least you can change the composition of it, release some of that “tension”/restricted movement/energy. Tension anywhere within the physical body will affect the face as not only does this restricted movement come with it’s own expression of chemicals from within the muscles (myokines, cytokines etc).
We could take this to a very “deep” level, going into all of the factors that affect how our facial muscles are right now, from factors pre-natal, birth, post natal and beyond – And while we might find clues as to what would be particularly helpful exercises for us to do to help specific situations, you will probably find that good old awareness helps to fix most things – Simply bring your awareness to the face (the top lip is again a great starting place but anywhere you are “drawn” to will do – eyes closed at first helps) and watch it start to correct itself.
Here’s a couple of “exercises” you might want to give a go:
- Breathing in through the nose, smile as you breathe in and form a pucker/”kiss” as you breath out (still through the nose). Play with this, allow your face to stay in one place if that’s what it feels like doing, switch the smile and pucker for the in and out breaths, have fun with it. Hold the pucker for as long as you can and feel it (naturally) melt.
- Form a pucker and bring the tip of your tongue into that area, as if it were a sweet you were sucking – pretend you are sucking it (start really slowly) and watch what happens to your breathing and how you feel, especially after you allow the face to relax again. Again, be playful, experiment with what feels good to you. These are like facial resets and as with any part of the body, resets are good. There are many more you can do too but you’ll find them soon enough.