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Why a Half Smile Goes A Long Way

Yesterday I was in a group session with my DBT clients. We were talking about judgment and how a lot of judgment can be conveyed non-verbally in someone's facial expressions. Some clients even said that to avoid showing their judgment and emotions to others, they avoid the people that cause them to judge, which in turn caused them to avoid confronting their feelings about the people around them.

I asked them if there was an alternative to avoidance. "What if you didn't avoid?"

"Then we would feel more pain."

"How true is that?"

"Well it sucks to confront people you judge."

"What if you didn't confront, but rather half-smiled through the discomfort of the judgment or confrontation?"

I brought the half-smile up because it is a DBT technique that DBT founder Marcia Linehan recommends to clients who are trying to approach situations mindfully in a non-judgmental way.

A recent study discussed in Scientific American and Psychology Today implies that "our emotions are reinforced—perhaps even driven—by their corresponding facial expressions." Thus, the half-smile has the power to change the judgment, or at least not reinforce the judgment.

Here are some exercises to try from

1) Half smile when you wake up in the morning at something in your room.

2) Half-smile while listening to music.

3) When you're irritated, try a half smile.

4) Half smile while sitting or laying down.

5) Half smile at a person who irritates you.

So, next time you find yourself judging something or someone, try a half smile. See how it changes your emotion.

Need more tips on how to change your mood? I'm happy to help. Schedule an appointment at

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