In the 1970s, 1980s, and as recently as this past spring, studies have shown that the act of smiling actually changes your reality—it changes how people perceive you, and more importantly, it changes how you feel. If you are in a bad mood and you smile, the action actually changes your brain response.
Laughter, too, (more obviously), changes how you feel, which is why some doctors recommend that their sick patients watch funny videos or listen to comedy tapes, highlighting the importance of joy in healing.
The fact that action (in this case the action of creating a simple facial expression), changes your inner life may have been only recently proven by science, but this has been a fundamental teaching in Kabbalah for a very long time.
A basic mystical concept we learn early on in Kabbalistic thought is that we have three realms in which to exert inspirational control: thought, speech, and action. Though thought is the most sublime and most connected to the Heavenly realms, action is the realm where we must often times begin. There are parallels to be found in psychology, especially in some of the more extreme applications of behaviorism. Do the action, the feeling will follow—clearly this approach has implications for psychotherapy.
These and other seemingly modern psycho-spiritual teachings are found in several explanatory texts. We’ll explore more in the coming weeks. We welcome your comments and emails.
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Last reviewed: 3 Sep 2010