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Smiling Your Way to Wellbeing

 In the midst of hectic schedules, social stresses and the rushed lifestyle associated with modern urban living, it’s easy for negative thoughts to arise and accumulate on our faces. We sulk, scowl and frown to express irritation or frustration when things do not go our way. And while being told to cheer up is the curse of the downturned mouth, smiling amid the mayhem may not only make us appear more approachable but be the key to good health and longevity.

According to Taoism, "emotional intelligence" is the process of recognizing emotions by their effects on the body, and employing exercises that transform negative sentiments into positive life force, or Chi. The life force stems from the vibratory nature of phenomena: the flow and tremoring that is happening continuously at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels. One of the most ancient Taoist Inner Alchemy (Neidan) practices, is the "Inner Smile." Normally we think of a smile, as an expression of friendliness or benevolence directed towards other people. But with the Inner Smile meditation, we offer the smile to ourselves, directing it towards our major internal organs. According to the Tao, different physiological systems store different emotions, and therefore organs have different energies. The Inner Smile meditation focuses on five organ systems: the heart, the lungs, the kidneys, the liver/gall bladder, and the stomach/spleen. Starting as a mere facial expression, the smile spreads to soften the whole body, dissolving malevolent energy and replacing it with gratitude and serenity, empowering us towards strength and restoration.

While you may be unconvinced of the merits of a simple smile, before you raise a sarcastic eyebrow or pull a frown, you may want to consider the implications. Prominent French physiologist, Dr, Israel Waynbaum, found that facial muscles used to express emotion activate specific brain neurotransmitters. His research shows that frowning triggers the release of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenaline. Stress doesn't merely turn our moods a little sour, it spikes blood pressure, weakens our immune system, accelerates aging, increases our susceptibility to anxiety and can lead to weight gain (especially around the abdominal area). Meanwhile, the effortless act of smiling changes your brain chemistry. It signals the body to release feel-good chemicals, such as endorphins, which give us a natural high, and help to fight off depression, reduce pain and relax muscles. Smiling also releases immune-boosting T-cells, which defend the body against germs, viruses and bacteria and accelerates healing.

But what if we don’t feel like smiling? Can we fake it until we make it? Although a genuine smile has a deeper impact, a surface smile tricks the brain into producing the same chemicals. And scientific studies have shown that the more we smile, the more we want to smile. As Buddhist monk and global spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

For a detailed guide to the Inner Smile Meditation see:

http://albanyqigong.com/images/Inner%20Smile%20and%20Six%20Healing%20Sounds%20Practice.pdf

 – Written by Sofia Sosunov

In Bloom

Happy Valentine's Day from the team at Ko & Humble

"If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?" - Khalil Gibran

Sometimes the most difficult thing is to find space for the love to foster, especially if there is trauma, hurt, or anger.  Here's to a clearing for a full, growing garden of flowers.  Happy Valentine's Day from the team at Ko & Humble, with much love from NYC.

What has helped you open your heart the most?

When Do You Feel Most Beautiful?

As we brave the chilly Dumbo wind and get ready for holiday parties and makeup, we took a moment to reflect on the elements of beauty, and interviewed some of our favorite women about when they felt most beautiful.  Interestingly, not a single one mentioned a specific lipstick, purchase or outfit.  

So, in direct defiance of the $60B+ beauty industry, of which we are a tiny sliver, it seems that beauty is an internal state after all.  Here are snippets from our conversations.  Enjoy... 

 

The incredibly beautiful but still down to earth green beauty and holistic living advocate, Laura, from Laura's Natural Life.  Laura's blog is full of thought-provoking articles about things beyond beauty like chemicals used for home construction, women's health issues, etc. and she has a superb YouTube channel:

"Probably on vacation, with a little bit of a tan, minimal makeup and windswept hair!"

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Ashley Neese is another of our favorites, a writer, breathwork healer, and multi-talented empath who works with women on complex emotional issues.  A snippet of her philosophy can be found here:  "I am here to hold your hand, not because you are broken, but because I really see you."  She can be found at Ashley Neese.

"I feel most beautiful when I am laughing with loved ones."

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The beautiful Lily, fashionista and creator of the Hello Darling Blog:

"Being a fashion blogger, you would think that getting dolled up for a shoot makes me feel the most beautiful, but honestly I just love taking off my face and getting into an oversize tee, hair up, comfy at home. This is where I'm in my element and get the most work done. It's not the most fabulous look, but it's where I'm the most productive, and to me, that's what makes me feel beautiful."

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The gorgeous Melissa Tsai is a Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist, as well as the woman behind the meticulously researched The Guide to Wellness.  Her philosophy on beauty is holistic:  "clean beauty isn’t only about the products you can put on your skin, but also what you ingest and the positive thoughts you carry in your heart."

"I feel the most beautiful when I take care of myself or spend time on myself. For instance, after taking the time to wash my face and then applying my skincare or when I do a mask. I also feel really beautiful when I dress up and take the time to look nice. I also feel beautiful when I have nice clean skin and no makeup! I think the focus is when it is about spending those moments to love myself. Which I do every day as a routine and because its fun!"

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Tricia Savino is a writer based in NYC although her writing focuses on beauty around the world.  Lovely and multilingual, she has lived on several continents; you can read more at the fabulous Ni Hao New York.

"I recently attended Rebecca Casciano's Sacred Beauty Salon series at The W.E.L.L. Summit, and I love what she said about using makeup not to hide who we are but as a tool for self-expression. I feel most beautiful when I root myself in my identity as a creation of worth and purpose, and this can be in the morning right after I've mindfully applied makeup to highlight my features or when I am bare-faced after my evening self-care routine."

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Lovely Kimberly Loc is one of the most respected writers and journalists focusing on the green beauty space.  She publishes her superbly informative Kimberly Loc blog and is a media content strategist.

"I feel most beautiful after a great workout. Whether it's yoga, weights or even a simple walk, my beauty comes alive when I'm active."

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Gorgeous Stephanie Bishop writes with a lot of heart about beauty and motherhood at Mrs. Bishop.  Her quote below made us cry.

"When have I felt most beautiful? I have 2 times in particular that really stand out to me. The first time would be my wedding day. And it's kind of funny, because looking back- my hair hadn't turned out as I had planned because we ran out of time. I was only 20 and did my own makeup. I wasn't nearly as skilled in cosmetics as I am now. But, I felt radiant as I was walking down the aisle to my Husband. The look on his face told me that I was the most beautiful woman in the room- the entire world- to him at the moment. The next time would be when I held my baby boy for the first time. I was exhausted and swollen and sweaty. My best friend even told me I wasn't looking too hot. But, when I look back at photos I see my smile and the sheer bliss on my face. Holding that sweet bundle after years of infertility and loss, I look strong and magnificent. Powerful, even though I felt physically weak.
It feels like sometimes we feel the most beautiful when we see ourselves reflected in the eyes of someone that we love."

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The lovely and kind Emery Bryant is one of our yoga inspirations.  She can often be found standing on her hands at Emery Bryant.  

"I feel most beautiful when I'm relaxed and happy. When life gets too busy and stressful I feel like the strain shows on my face and in my body. In contrast, when I'm relaxed and happy I can't help but smile at even the littlest things. :)"

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The beautiful Janet Valenza is the enterprising woman behind GoGoGracious, a unique fashion pop up experience.  

"I feel the most beautiful when I am rested, serene, well fed and hydrated, loosened up from exercise and most of all, dressed in a way I am comfortable. For me that means the right clothes for the occasion and the weather that fit well, flatter me color-wise and express my personality!"

 

The lovely Keri, creator of The Greenly Guide told us the following, which did not include a single make up item:

"I think the answer that comes to mind first, may be cliche, but I feel most beautiful every day being a Mom. Feeling beautiful to me is a feeling of confidence, and i feel most confident when I am caring for my daughter. She is the absolute greatest source of joy in my life and every single smile & 'I love you mama' from my sweet girl leaves me feeling on top of the world. Being a mom isn't always glamorous, but it makes me feel more beautiful than makeup could any day! :)"

 

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How about you? :-)