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Bloom Vol 19: Smile

Alex Wagner is a touring DJ who has battled addiction and writes for SPIN to encourage others. This week's column contemplates how smiling can inspire balance, realigning us in a more positive mindset.

I often received remarks on my seemingly perpetual state of happiness in elementary school–a smile that would never leave my face.

One time, I happened to eat something most unagreeable, resulting in me spending some time in the main office. My teacher, Ms. Gould, passed through and remarked, “Alex, see, even after throwing up, you’re still smiling. Nothing will take that smile from you.”

Eventually, time would lessen its presence.

As partially defined last week, a significant component of emotional intelligence is our ability to understand, perceive, and control our emotional states.

I had forgotten just how powerful a consistent smile could be and how it ties to my well-being.

Growing in my understanding and means to observe the nuances within my behavior and sentiment, recently, I started to notice the physical weight upon my face, how often I would be holding a stern tone and not the curls of a smile.

What began to happen when I paid attention to my smile?

I felt lighter.

I felt happier.

Our actions, including how we carry ourselves and our smiles, act as a portal for emotional growth.

When we smile, commonly, we are happy in some facet, and those grinning muscles produce endorphins, the chemical that relieves stress and pain. Smiling brings down blood pressure.

This feeling of lifting weight also occurred within me because I drew bridges and connections to what stopped me from smiling.

Often I am pretty hard on myself, and I had not realized how much that was beginning to show in my outward presence in moments I didn’t think it was.

Working with my mind and body on smiling more is an action to be more present, which is a mark of emotional intelligence.

When we are more present, we can better regulate our emotions and move with the feelings of others.

I asked myself, what is there in this moment that I can smile about where before I was stern?

Take writing this column, for example. A stern face may subconsciously begin to make this task a bit more of a trial, it may lean me closer into the depths and the problems within my point of focus instead of the solution.

Problems, when amplified, can chip us down a notch when they might not need to. The act of a smile can bring about a balance, realigning us in a more positive mindset.

With a subtle smile on my face typing this now, I can undoubtedly say it lifts the mood of my writing, a more effortless state in which to think about my emotions.

As a result of this observation, making a self-correlation between my smile and the weight I voluntarily carry, I formulated new agreements with myself to create more moments of ease in my day merely by smiling!

Becoming more present, I found more things to smile about throughout my day. Interestingly enough, my music and work performance have improved, and I’m discovering more joy in social interactions.

A smile can be a portal to a more emotionally informed self.

Likely you will find that it does not take many days to increase how often you are smiling and the presence it can bring you – we are born with the ability to smile; it is not a learned action.

Muscle memory will bring it back in no time.

I encourage the practice when going through daily life, notice your face, notice if it feels soft or stern. If it feels hardened, asking ourselves why, and finding something positive within that moment, can change a day for the better.

It makes life a little more playful and helps clear the cobwebs of surface tension to allow us to go deeper into ourselves and further our emotional intelligence.

I hope you smile today. 🙂



About the Author

Photo: Sumit Dhungel

A dance music producer, singer, and songwriter, Alex Wagner (known by his music project ASW), was called an emerging artist to watch by DJ Mag in September of 2021. Currently signed to Tommie Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire Records, he has also had multiple releases on Atlantic Records, remixing artists such as Galantis.

As a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and certified peer counselor with the state of Washington, he has organized multiple mental health awareness events called “Grooving for Good” leveraging the power of music and the arts. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on Instagram at @asinglewave.