Smiling lessons are now available for people in Japan following three years of government recommendations that people wear masks.
After the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe in 2020, people in the country were advised to wear masks in order to protect themselves from the respiratory illness.
According to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, since the recent lifting of the mask rules, many people have struggled to adjust to life without face coverings.
Some have forgotten how to smile and feel the need to rehearse the facial expression, the paper says.
Sessions organised by the Akabane Elderly Relief Centre have grown in popularity with more people requesting individual lessons since the end of last year.
The number of applicants rose by 4.5 times after media first reported in February 2023 the government would be dropping its recommendation to wear masks.
In May, Japan said face coverings should be an individual choice, and downgraded the virus’s severity classification.
“With mask wearing having become the norm, people have had fewer opportunities to smile, and more and more people have developed a complex about it,” Keiko Kawano, a coach with the “smile education” company Egaoiku, told Asahi Shimbun.
“Moving and relaxing the facial muscles is the key to making a good smile,” she added.
So, how are the lessons conducted?
Participants are given a hand mirror to check their progress and smiles, with some adjusting their facial expression until they are happy with the outcome of their natural smile.
Yasuko Watarai, a participant in one of the lessons, told the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper: “Smiles are essential for maskless communication.
“I want to apply what I learned today at volunteer activities and other gatherings.”
Ms Kawano said she wants people to spend time smiling more for their physical and mental well-being.
“Smiling not only makes a good impression on others and facilitates communication but also has the effect of making yourself feel more positive.
“I want people to spend time consciously smiling for their (physical) and mental well-being,” she added.
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What are some of the benefits of smiling?
According to Delaware Psychological Services, some of the benefits of smiling include living a longer life and lowering blood pressure.
A study conducted in 2010 found that genuine, intense smiling is linked to a longer life expectancy.
Smiling more often helps elevate your mood and laughter can reduce blood pressure.
“When endorphins are released to counteract the negative effects of stress hormones, your body relaxes – lowering your blood pressure. The combination of these ‘feel good’ hormones with the lowered blood pressure improves your mood, eases anxiety and takes tension off your heart,” the Henry Ford Health website has said.
This story originally appeared on Skynews