A challenge that will make you smile

Smile challenge

Do you want to have some fun and joy in your life?

Yes? Then play with me a while and accept my challenge. I offered this challenge to my mindfulness practice group last week and we’ve been delighted with the results. Read on for details.

I used to take life so seriously. Adult life seemed filled with demands and responsibilities that preoccupied my mind. Life felt serious, and this belief seemed to harden the expression on my face.

Our facial expression either attracts or repels people. A frown or scowl pushes people away, while a smile is like a magnet, drawing people to us.

If you want to draw people in and appear more intelligent and successful, smiling is a powerful tool.

While smiling is a simple but powerful practice to support our health and happiness, it’s also wonderful and enriching to offer others the opportunity to smile as well. Grins are contagious and it’s life-giving to infect others with this contagion.

There’s a strong-link between the toothy-grin and longevity, and even more immediate benefits we can experience on a daily basis. Science is revealing the power.


• Makes us more attractive & appear younger

• Reduces stress hormones and decreases the stress response in our bodies

• Elevates our moods, through stimulating positive neurotransmitters in the brain

• Boosts our immune system

• Lowers our blood pressures

• Is like a natural drug. It makes us feel better, even reducing body pain.

• Helps us look on the bright side, even when challenge arises

• Makes us appear successful

• Is contagious, and is one of the best viruses we can spread.

Smiling sends a reward signal to our brains, which then sends a signal of happiness to the body. It becomes a positive-feedback loop. A genuine smile positively changes our brains.

The scientist within me decided to conduct my own experiment to find out if a simple smile could make me feel better. I must admit, at first it felt odd, smiling for nothing. But then I noticed a shift inside my body.

I now make it a practice to remember to smile, especially when I’m feeling stressed. Instead of letting my face harden into my old mask of concentration, I pause and remember to smile.

I allow the muscles around my eyes and the corners of my mouth to soften and lift. I can feel the changes this makes to my body and within my mind. Letting our eyes smile is an important part of the equation. I’ve made it a practice, even pausing to smile before answering the phone. People can tell if your smiling, even if they can’t see you.

While a genuine smile is the most effective, even a forced smile, moving the facial muscles causes a positive shift inside our brains and bodies.

Researcher Andrew Newberg offered suggestions to learn how to create a genuine smile.

“Visualize someone they deeply love, or recall an event that brought them deep satisfaction and joy. It’s such an easy exercise, and we train people to do it,” he said.

I used to wait until there was something to smile about but no more. And now, I’ve found a wonderful way to invite more people into the opportunity to experience the same benefit. I sure hope you’re going to try it.

So here’s your challenge—should you choose to accept it.

This practice was suggested by a psychology professor Dr. Mark Goulston, founder of the WMYST Foundation.

As you approach a service-person wearing a name tag, using their name, introduce yourself and ask, “What made you smile today?” Each and every time I receive a smile in return. I’ve learned so much about these wonderful people in the process. It’s been great and I’m delighted with wonderful connection this simple question creates.

So, what made you smile today? Let’s infect the world with this practice.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Be kind to those who show up

Making a connection

My husband’s a bit of a jackass at times, and he approves of that statement.

Even 45-years later, his antics still bring a smile to my face because I know his heart and intention. This is the way he connects and tries to bring happiness to the important people who make our everyday lives possible.

I was reminded again of the importance of his caring acts of “jackassery” on a visit to a local store. As usual, approaching the clerk I could see his mental-cogs turning, trying to figure out how to lighten the moment and connect with Roxanne, our clerk that day.

He certainly had a tough customer in Roxanne, as her eyes were downcast and her face very somber. She seemed a thousand miles away as she pulled the items across the scanner. This didn’t deter him and he seemed to enjoy the challenge.

Concerned about the lengths to which he might go, I leaned over and whispered, “Roxanne, he’s a jackass you know, and he’s not going to stop until you smile.”

As her eyes met mine, she took a big breath, her face lightened as she started to smile. She paused and explained her experience of being a clerk.

It touched my heart as she told me of the daily challenge of being invisible to people as she serves them, reflecting she only becomes visible to them when they have a complaint. Roxanne said it was draining and dehumanizing. It robbed her of joy and happiness, and was exhausting

I was reminded about a great truth I’ve learned—when we dehumanize others, we also dehumanize ourselves, and we lose something important.

Through seeing and connecting with the unique humanity in the people in our everyday lives we can experience a depth of connection even in the most casual experiences.

People are not simply a means to an end, faceless bodies to serve us. Each person is a unique individual with a story, a family and concerns of their own. Our every day lives suddenly become populated with meaningful people instead of faceless others.

I learned an important lesson a long time ago that changed the way I show up in life.

Many years ago, I was blessed to meet a special woman who shared my unusual first name, which made me feel an instant connection to her. Interestingly, I soon realized I wasn’t the only one who felt connected with her. Everyone seemed uplifted by even a few minutes with this special lady, and I’ve written about her before.

Corinne Armour lived her entire life working in a grocery store in Trail, B.C. Coming from the big city of Calgary, I found it strange when people would line up at her till, even when other lines were empty. It made no sense to me, until I experienced her.

Despite the long lineups at her cash register, she was never too busy to warmly greet each person and ask a few questions. I felt seen and important, as I’m certain everyone did. Soon, I was also lining up at Corinne’s till, pleased to wait, just to have a few moments to say hello, as I paid for my groceries.

I always felt something special happened. Grocery shopping took on new meaning. Crazy, hey?

Everyone loved her. Everyone in town knew her name. She worked at a grocery store. When Corinne was killed in a tragic car accident, her funeral was held in the largest venue possible. Even then, people spilled into the streets.

Everyone came to pay tribute to this woman who worked at, what some might consider, a simple job. The magic was her. The magic is you. What matters most is you and the way you do what you do.

Over the years, we’ve forged surprisingly deep connections with many so-called service-people in our lives. We make a point of learning their names and feel privileged to hear a bit of their story and life experience. There’s nothing more joyful for us than walking into a store or restaurant and seeing people’s faces light up as we greet them.

These simple acts of connection have added such value and depth to our lives, and hopefully to those whose lives we’ve touched; it feels like community and it feels rich.

It’s the personal factor, the way we each show up that makes what we do special. This is what touches people. What’s essential is taking the opportunities for human connection in our everyday lives.

I believe we left Roxanne better then we found her, and that matters.

Remember, in a world that is short-staffed, be kind to those who show up.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Practising the gentle art of blessing

A blessing or a curse?

Argggghhhh! Life’s filled with noise, delays, demands, and reasons to wait. And it leaving everyday life feeling like one big irritation.

Our shoulders tense and our faces grimace as we curse under our breath at yet another red-light, a slow driver or a long line-up. A good day easily turns painful as our internal thermostat of irritation, frustration and pressure continues to climb.

As our sense of frustration and stress accumulates throughout the day, we become like tightly wound springs.

If we stuff those feelings down inside, they make us sick and affect our mental, emotional and physical health. We may find ourselves releasing tension on unsuspecting, innocent people—safe people, like our families. When this happens, a whole new set of problems develops.

While it’s easy and human to get stuck living a reactive life, subject to the events of the world, there are things we can do to not only support and empower ourselves, but to add to the goodness that’s so needed in the world.

A practice I’ve found very helpful and empowering is called The Gentle Art of Blessing, taken from a book of the same name by Pierre Pradervand.

As Pradervand offers in his subtitle, it’s a simple practice that will transform you and your world. I’ve found this to be true as I use this practice liberally, and I want to share it with you.

Recently, smack-dab in the middle of a spiritual service I was offering at the hospital, the loud alarm sounded as a “code blue,” or cardiac arrest, was announced repeatedly over the loud-speakers. Knowing the implications of this for all involved—patient and staff alike—I engaged the group in the simple practice of offering a blessing for the patient and staff involved in the code.

As a group, we paused, extending caring thoughts and blessings to this emergency and, as people opened their eyes following our practice, everyone was smiling and relaxed, excited at having participated. I was delighted to learn this simple act had been transformative for people in the group.

For some in the group, the sound of the alarm had previously created irritation and upset, and the simple art of changing perspective and offering a blessing of support created a sense of connectedness and peace instead.

One group-leader was excited by the change and decided to incorporate this practice of blessing the next time a code alarm sounded, using it as an opportunity instead of seeing it as an irritation.

The change of perspective is key. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. We start to find opportunity to offer kindness, blessing and support in places we may have previously judged or been irritated. While I may sound a bit Pollyannaish, it’s transformed my experience of life for the better.

I know I am the first person to experience the effects of my thoughts and feelings. Each thought I have creates a corresponding chemical cascade in my body, either of negativity and stress, or of kindness and care. I alone decide which internal pharmacy I access by choosing which perspective I choose to take; frustration and irritation or blessing and kindness. It’s empowering to choose.

I use this practice liberally, especially in situations that used to challenge or frustrate me. I also engage in this simple practice each time I hear a siren, blessing the ambulance attendants and the patient, knowing help is on the way.

I’ve learned I don’t have to suffer and pay an internal price for circumstances beyond my control, like the code buzzer. In situations where I felt a victim to what was happening, I feel empowered to offer goodness, not only to others, but to myself. I am the only one who can affect what’s happening inside of me.

I’ve applied this blessing practice in many areas of my life and know it helps me set my internal compass to experience and expect the good, and I’m not often disappointed. While it easily becomes second nature to curse what challenges us, it’s liberating to choose a blessing instead. I hope you give it a try.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Dealing with Impostor Syndrome

A dirty little secret

There’s dirty little secret lurking beneath many façades of high achievement and perfectionism. It impacts successful people across the board, despite expertise, work history, social status or skill level and causes them to suffer and be separated from their good.

The secret is imposter syndrome. Maybe you have, or will, find yourself or a loved-one in what follows, because I did.

Recently, in thanking and acknowledging a highly skilled and compassionate health care professional, he revealed to me he suffers from imposter syndrome. He explained all of the accolades and recognition he receives for the work he does creates a sense of internal discomfort. He doesn’t feel he is as good as everyone thinks he is, despite evidence to the contrary.

It made me sad he couldn’t experience the reward of being phenomenal at his craft. I became curious and dug deeper to learn more, learning imposter syndrome is more prevalent than I could have imagined and fuels thinking and behaviours that negatively impact life.

Imposter syndrome, a term introduced in the 1970s by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Paula Rose Clance, is the internal feeling that you’re not really as competent and able as people think you are. You feel like a fraud, resulting in a state of constant anxiety. Research into the syndrome continues today.

Imposter Syndrome is often related to a personal belief that one’s success hasn’t been due to personal intelligence, skill or ability, but only because of luck. People experiencing it feel like a phony, and live in fear they’ll be exposed as the frauds they believe themselves to be.

People suffering from this syndrome may develop tendencies toward perfectionism, overachieving and isolation. Never measuring up to the high standards they’ve set for themselves, they continually keep the carrot of feeling good enough out in front of themselves, like an unachievable goal.

Becoming very sensitive to even constructive criticism, people with the syndrome often work hard and over-prepare to ensure the ruse is maintained. Doing well does nothing to quell these internal feelings because the more one accomplishes, the more they feel like a fraud if those beliefs and feelings of self-doubt are not healed.

People with the syndrome live in fear of not living-up to others’ expectations, deflecting any personal credit for their own abilities, often attributing their success to other factors. They’re often hyper self-critical, berating their performance and, filled with self-doubt, have a hard time accurately assessing their own competence and skills, underestimating their abilities.

People experiencing imposter syndrome often suffer in isolation and silence, not sharing the constant anxiety they’re experiencing. Over time, that can lead to depression and greater isolation.

While there are many factors contributing to the development of IS within an individual, such as upbringing and family dynamics, personality, and social anxiety, feelings of being an imposter easily surface whenever new opportunities at work or school present in our lives. Studies estimate 70% of people will experience feelings of imposter syndrome whenever new opportunities arise at work or school.

There are five types of imposter syndrome, according to expert Dr. Valerie Young, in her book: “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in spite of It.”

• The Perfectionist and Control Freak

• The Superwoman/man who work harder to push themselves to measure up.

• The Natural Genius who wants to get everything right the first time.

• The Soloist who beliefs they must do everything themselves, and resist asking for help.

• The Expert who feels they never know enough and shudder at being considered an expert.

No accomplishment or success in the world will soothe these internal feelings of being a fraud. It’s an inside job.

To help break out of the prison of this suffering, try these approaches:

• Learn to question your thoughts and self-judgments and consider whether they’re rational.

• Share your feeling with trusted others.

• Honestly assess your abilities; write them down

• Don’t compare yourself to others.

• Be moderate in your use of social media.

• Mentoring others can help you to see your own ability and knowledge.

• Seek out professional support.

Breaking free of imposter syndrome helps free us from feelings of constant anxiety and stress. It allows us to more easily step outside of our comfort zones and accept new opportunities as they arise.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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