Change Your Face, Improve Your Relationships

Two Things You Can Do Right Now
Stressed? Tension in your relationships? It’s all in your face. Research about our nervous system and relationships reveals that changing our physical state can improve our relationships and our mood. The connections our brain makes with our facial muscles is in our polyvagal nerve. Stephen Porges is the brilliant scientist who has made pretty complex neuroanatomy knowledge accessible and useful to psychotherapists. You don’t need become a Polyvagal Theory expert to apply theses ideas. Just do these two things.

Reducing the tension in the muscles of your face and tongue creates relaxation in your entire body shifting your nervous system from a state of stress to calm.

How to do it:
1. Stick out your tongue. It may seem silly. Yes, we were told not to do this because it is rude. It’s okay. Stick out your tongue as far as you can. Hold that for 5 seconds. Put your tongue back in your mouth. Now repeat and stick your tongue out even further. Return your tongue inside your mouth. What do you notice about your face? Your body?

2. Open your mouth and pry your jaw open with your fingers. Is there a point where your jaw won’t seem to open any further? Find that place with your mouth open and GENTLY use your fingers to open your jaw further. Hold that for 5 seconds. Repeat. Notice your face. How does your body feel?

Applying these two exercises relaxes your facial muscles which are connected to your cranial nerves which are part of the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve is allowed to shift in this way, our body activates our SES – Social Engagement System. Within this system we, as humans in a physical body, connect to others. When we do this in a relaxed manner, this creates safety in our world. Safety leads to reduced stress and meaningful supportive relationships.

Try these exercises in front of a mirror. Gaze at your face in a mirror for a minute or so. Then do the two exercises above. Now look at your face in the mirror again. What do you notice? Your face is probably less tense and more open. An open face invites pleasing interactions with others. For even more fun try this with your partner, a friend and your kids. Your children will love sticking their tongues out at you!

Two simple tools can improve your relatability

Engaging in simple exercises like the two described above are part of body psychotherapy. These body mobilization tools work in concert with talk therapy to create lasting, effective change in your life. Talking is helpful. Shifting your body out of its chronic tension states is even more powerful combined with psychotherapy.

How did your face shift or change when you did the two face exercises? Please share your experiences in the comment section below. If this article inspired you to think of someone who might be helped by this, please share this post.

Christine J. Harris, M.S., L.M.F.T., C.B.T.

Christine J. Harris, M.S., L.M.F.T., C.B.T.

Christine Harris is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Bioenergetic Therapist in Littleton, Colorado. Her specialty is embracing all of you: body, mind, and spirit in the therapy process. She has extensive post-graduate training in Bioenergetic Psychotherapy, a body-centered form of counseling. Contact her about your life’s adventures, misadventures, and desire for a more vibrant life. Email: [email protected] Phone: 720-727-2500.

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