Your countenance is how your face and body express your inner thoughts. It communicates to those around you when you are not speaking. Think about the cashier at the store who is ready to go home for the day. He or she doesn’t have to tell you this; you know it by their countenance. It is written on the face or in the drooping of the shoulders. The countenance reveals all.
With a positive countenance it is possible for you to alter the stress level in you and around you. Because of this, it is important present a positive countenance even when you don’t “feel like it”. Take it one step further: do it especially when you don’t “feel like it”. Practice this often until it becomes a natural habit. Behavior experts assure us that anything you consistently do becomes a habit that you do without having to work at it. Take the time to do this. Over time, it will become second nature.
Check in with your own countenance right now. Is it welcoming? Would you seem approachable to a tired child, an anxious teen, or a worried adult? Is gravity dictating your countenance by pulling your mouth down into a frown? Be honest with yourself. Look in a mirror and check. Now, let’s try an exercise.
Practice Smiling Right now, where you are, smile. Just smile. Hold it for a moment. Hold it a little longer. Practice this. Smile again. Hold it a little longer than the last time. Read a few more sentences then check in again. If the smile has gone, smile again. A smile is the universal language of peace and kindness. In addition, your smile is contagious. It’s nearly impossible to resist smiling back at someone who is smiling at you.
Think about a time when someone smiled a genuine smile at you. Just the memory of it brings a smile to your face. Think about a time when the pleasure of seeing someone you love brought a smile so big you didn’t think your face could contain it. Keep that memory. And smile. Pass the smile along to the people around you. Check in with your countenance. Are you smiling? If not, go ahead and smile. Look in a mirror. Practice different smiles until you find the one you like most.
Imagine that right now God is smiling at you in this way. Experience love and peace. Be willing to share it. A warm and open countenance typically contains a smile that is relaxed and calm. With practice, this kind of smile can be achieved easily and naturally. And yes, I did use the word “practice” in association with smiling. When you are creating a positive countenance the most helpful habit you can cultivate is the habit of smiling.
Smiling is also really good for you. Neuroscientists tell us that brain doesn’t know if you are faking a smile or not. When you smile, your mind responds with calm and happiness even if your life is not calm and happy so don’t reserve your smiles for when everything is going well. Those moments are rare. If you are feeling pushed and stressed and overwhelmed, check in with your countenance and smile. Smiling reduces stress, boosts your immune system, and releases endorphins.
Your countenance is about more than smiling. Your countenance contains all the communication you are sending out without speaking. Your eyes communicate particularly well. Are your eyes focused on the one with whom you are communicating, or are they roving the room? Looking directly at someone with whom you are speaking offers an intimate connection and communicates that you care. Maintain a steady, calm eye contact whenever you are dealing with those who are close to you. Be especially careful to practice this with children. Children will speak openly to those who listen openly. If a child is speaking to you, turn your eyes to them.
The way you hold your arms, the direction in which you point your feet, as well as the control you exercise over your eyes are all part of your countenance. Notice how you stand when you are communicating. With an open countenance, your shoulders are relaxed and parallel to the ground. You are standing up straight and relaxed. Resist the urge to fold your arms in front of your body when you are communicating with others. This sends a message that excludes those around you. If you feel awkward and don’t know what to do with your hands, hold them in front of you with relaxed arms and shoulders. and smile.
Notice also where your feet are pointing as you are speaking or listening to someone. If your feet are pointing towards the one with whom you are speaking, you are sending the message of careful attention and full engagement. When you are engaged in conversation with anyone, make a point of turning so that your toes are pointing toward them and that the rest of your body does too. A positive countenance is comfortable and upright. Slouching communicates defeat, and Harbor Homes are never defeated! Stand up straight as you walk, and walk with purpose. You will feel and appear more confident and welcoming. And remember to smile.
An open warm countenance communicates that you are focused on the present and not fretting about what has gone before or that which is yet to come. Similar to the way that smiling sends messages of well being to your brain, this posture fools the brain into believing that you are comfortable and confident even when you are not.
Your countenance is a very important part of creating your harbor home. Practice these habits and let them be a blessing to everyone! Including you. You'll be glad you did!