Hypomimia got you down? Make smiling part of your exercise routine.

A columnist known for her smile describes how she counters this symptom

Christine Scheer avatar

by Christine Scheer |

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When I was in college, I worked as a waitress. One of the things I found remarkable was that I could go to work grumpy and leave happy. Was it because my co-workers were so fun? (They were.) Was it because the food was good? (It was.) Was it the customers? (They liked to chat.) Maybe it was some of those things, but I have another theory.

I wanted tips!

To increase my tips, I smiled a lot. I smiled to the point that it became a habit, and if anybody even peeked in my direction, my face would spring into action, and I’d dazzle them with my smile.

This habit has followed me throughout my life. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015, I read about people with Parkinson’s developing a mask-like facial expression, called hypomimia. I dreaded the thought of it.

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One day, I ran into an acquaintance. After having a conversation, she asked me if everything was OK. I wondered why she thought something was wrong, and she said I didn’t seem as happy as I used to be. She said I usually had a big smile and laughed a lot.

Hypomimia affects the muscles in your face, and just like the rest of our bodies being slower and stiffer, this can also happen to our facial muscles. Our facial expression is a communication tool, so if it is difficult to smile, it’s natural for people to think that we are grumpy or sad.

When I got home that day, in tears, I asked my husband, John, if he thought I was losing expression in my face. He didn’t think so, but still, that was a wake-up call for me. I was determined to keep smiling, no matter what Parkinson’s threw at me.

Fake it till you make it

Did you know that the physical act of smiling can make you feel happier? It’s true. Try it. Smile at this page like you mean it! Not one of those tight-lipped, forced smiles. Smile like you are looking at an adorable baby or a cute puppy. How do you feel?

All this smiling is why I left my waitress job happy each evening. I had forced myself to smile until it felt natural, which made me happier. This simple tactic seems remarkable, but it works for me.

Like any other muscle we must keep exercising, our facial muscles are essential. So watch silly videos that make you laugh or smile when your friends call even though they can’t see you. If you have grandchildren to babysit, feel that joy to your core. Smile and embrace the moment.

Smiling is part of your exercise routine now.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


jane avatar


You are so right and it relieves stress too!


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