Relax your face, and your mind will follow.
When you think, your eyes are involved. Try to remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday. In trying to remember, your eyes look away for a moment or they defocus. Your eyes react when you call something to your mind’s eye. This is especially true when you worry. Your forehead tightens, the area around your eyes tenses, and your eyeballs make little darting movements. This is true even when you sleep. When you dream, your eyes interact with your imaginary environment, resulting in rapid eye movement or R.E.M. sleep.
Your mouth and jaw are also closely involved with your thinking process. Recall the lyrics to a favorite song. Even in “thinking” these lyrics, your tongue makes tiny micro movements. It can be especially hard to “hold your tongue” when stressed. Have you ever noticed an anxious person chewing at her lip or the side of his mouth? And when you dream, your jaw tends to get involved, leading to teeth grinding and TMJ.
The good news is, this process can be reversed. Although stress leads to overactive eyes and mouth, relaxing these same areas leads to mental and emotional relaxation as well.
Try the following exercise for a few minutes daily, or during times of stress:
Sit with your eyes closed, and simply become aware of any tension around, beneath or between your eyes. Is your face somehow “holding on” to these areas? Tune in to your eyeballs. Do you notice small movements as your eyes still “look around” slightly, even behind closed eyelids? Don’t try to stop these movements, just pay close attention to them. In fact, it’s more about making peace with this automatic eye tension than it is “fixing” it. Ironically, simply consciously noting, and consciously accepting, these automatic movements begins to settle them down. Also notice your jaw, your lips, your tongue. Where is the tip of your tongue in your mouth? Is it jammed against the roof of your mouth? And the back of your tongue, where it attaches to your throat–we call this the “root of tongue” muscle. Observe if the back of your tongue is tense in your mouth, or if your throat is slightly constricted.
By spending a few minutes daily observing these facial areas and their unconscious tendencies, you are deprogramming old patterns of stress and anxiety. A relaxed face reflects an “all clear” signal back to your nervous system, allowing your thoughts to settle, your breathing to regulate and your blood pressure to calm down.