How Tense Is Your Face?
I’m the worst poker player in the world, but more on that later.
The relationship between the physical & emotional is nothing new:
If Charles Schulz figured it out in 1960, it’s reasonable to expect science to have filled in some gaps since then. In fact, there is now an entire specialization dedicated to the physiological bases of psychological processes.
It’s no surprise that our mind affects our body – how else would we lift our arms or smile? What’s more interesting is that the reverse is also true. Our body affects our mind.
Some neat examples:
- Standing up or lying down affects how angry you’re likely to get.
- Folding your arms increases perseverance and activates an unconscious desire to succeed.
- Upright or slumped physical positions affect how easy it is to generate positive or negative thoughts.
- Manipulated postures (to look “sad” or “angry”) have an effect not only on subjective emotions but also on perception and judgement processes.
There are a LOT of muscles in the face (the exact number varies depending on who you ask & how they measure them). What is interesting is that voluntarily “making a face” can actually cause the associated emotion, not just (as you would expect) the other way around.
As I said, I’m possibly the worst poker player in the world. Why? Because pretty much every thought or feeling I have is reflected in my face. I’m ok with this. I figure bluffing in poker is basically lying, & I’m ok with not developing lying as a core skill. It’s a personal choice.
I’ve recently started paying more attention to what the muscles in my face are doing. If I relax a muscle in my face, I’m also forcing myself to let go of the thought or feeling that’s causing it. What’s most interesting is that most of the time I’m not even aware of what that thought or feeling even is. What I’m actually releasing is deep, subconscious tension.
The simple act of incrementally relaxing all the muscles in my face relaxes my entire being. It helps me drop all thoughts and feelings.
If this sounds familiar it should, this is what “being in the moment” is all about. No thoughts, no feelings, just awareness.
Obviously there will be other thoughts & emotions we hold in other places in our body – but once your face is completely relaxed, noticing tension in other places (our scalp, back, shoulders etc) is relatively easy – those muscles are much bigger, after all. It’s not an accident that noticing & relaxing specific muscles is one of the core activities within Yoga.
It’s such a simple thing, but the act of paying attention to & consciously letting go of facial tension is the simplest & fastest way I’ve found of assessing & improving my deep levels of pure, present beingness.
I have another theory that doing this will also reduce my wrinkles.. but I’ll have to get back to you on that.