Good Enough Therapist | Mona Lisa Half-Smile | Good Enough Blog
We all get down and need a quick pick-me-up. Try this.
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Mona Lisa (Half) Smile: A Quick Trick For a Pick-Me-Up

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Today, one of my clients reminded me of a skill that I’ve used for many years, stemming from a concept in the theory, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).  I call it, Mona Lisa Half-Smile.  

Smiling is such an interesting, and universal thing.  When we are genuinely happy, we smile. When we want to feign happiness, we smile.  When we are laughing, we smile.  Sometimes we smile when we are uncomfortable or want to hide.  When we want to communicate to others that we are pleasant, or kind, or enthusiastic, we smile.  Sometimes we smile for others and sometimes we smile for ourselves.  The best smiles happen when no one is around to see, and I look out for those moments.  Try to notice them.  If they make you smile, you might just be a person that someone else is noticing and smiling about.  Whoa… trippy….

In my mind, smiling can be used as a skill, and we were all born with the capacity.  We might as well use it to our advantage.

We all get bummed out sometimes, no matter who we are and how generally content we are.  When I talk about being bummed out, I am talking about a more fleeting, momentary feeling.  This skill, half-smiling, is not going to be long-lasting, but it’s a great way to pick yourself up in a moment of distress.  

The way to do this is to put your lips in a slightly upturned position—as if you are about to smile, but you don’t quite make it there fully.  This is so subtle that other people will not even notice it.  The reason why it’s important to not go into a full, toothy smile is because we associate that type of smiling with other things that aren’t necessarily always good (as stated above).  We need this to feel entirely different and fresh.  From now on, the meaning we assign to this feeling and expression is empowerment, success, silliness, peace, freedom, and… you get it.  

     Below: This half-smile is nothing like the duck-lipped selfies we see everywhere on social media.  If it looks like this, you need to try again:


social media, fake smile, duck face, mona lisa, good enough blog

So, in order to practice this, I like to add it to my early morning repertoire of power-posing, and my BADASS affirmations.  I just curl up my lips ever so slightly.  If I take a minute to be mindful, I can feel it in my lips, cheeks, and eyes.  I can feel it even if I can’t see it, and it is sending new messages to my brain.

I also do this in my car because I have a tendency to get very annoyed with traffic and other drivers.  When I feel the anger coming on, or even preemptively, I will blast some music that makes me happy, and practice my Mona Lisa Half-Smile.  Most of the time, it gets me out of that negative headspace.

So, the next time you find out that you won’t get paid till next week, or you want to pull your hair out because you are stuck in traffic on the 405, just make like the Mona Lisa and half-smile.


smile, be happy

Dana Maloney is a Disruptive Therapist, Coach, Catalyst, and Founder of Good Enough Therapist. She is on a mission is to disrupt the traditional model of therapy.  She is based in Venice, CA.

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