In Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindful breathing exercise “Breathing in, I smile; breathing out, I release,” the concepts of smiling and releasing are combined to create a powerful tool for cultivating emotional balance, inner peace, and well-being.
The act of smiling is not necessarily directed at a specific object or person. Instead, it serves as a gentle reminder to cultivate feelings of joy, happiness, and gratitude within oneself. Smiling has been scientifically shown to release endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the brain that can help improve mood and reduce stress. By consciously choosing to smile as you breathe in, you are fostering a sense of inner happiness and contentment that is not reliant on external circumstances. The smile in this context is an expression of self-compassion, loving-kindness, and gratitude for the present moment.
On the other hand, the concept of “release” refers to the act of consciously letting go of any negative emotions, tensions, or stress that may have built up in your mind and body. When practicing this breathing exercise, the focus is on using the exhale as a means to release and let go of any feelings of anxiety, stress, anger, or emotional pain that you may be experiencing. This can help create space for positive emotions and thoughts to arise, fostering a sense of mental and emotional well-being.
By combining the act of smiling during the inhale with the release during the exhale, Thich Nhat Hanh aims to teach individuals how to cultivate emotional balance and inner peace. This practice encourages individuals to be aware of their emotions, acknowledge them without judgment, and then consciously release them, promoting a greater sense of mental clarity and emotional stability. In this way, the mindful breathing exercise of “smile and release” can have a profound impact on your mental and emotional well-being, as well as on your interactions with others.