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You may have been told as a child that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown.
Our face is made up of 43 muscles in total, and these are controlled by the seventh cranial nerve - also known as the facial nerve.
Our facial muscles often mirror our inner stress and emotions without us even noticing, and, just like the muscles in our body need relaxing after intense use, so do our facial muscles.
Relaxing our facial muscles can have a range of benefits for our physical and emotional health. It can release tension, improve circulation and blood flow, address sinus issues, and even boost the overall appearance of your complexion by reducing puffiness.
Relaxation techniques can also combat tension headaches and can promote a better overall state of mind.
Not sure how? Let us show you...
Stop clenching your jaw
Clenching your jaw can cause headaches, tooth problems, and facial pain, and is usually caused by stress and anxiety. However, if you do clench your jaw, you may not even be aware that you’re doing it. Pay attention to your jaw muscles, particularly in situations where you may be uncomfortable or stressed out.
If you do clench your jaw, make a special effort not to. It’ll take time to break the habit, but you’ll benefit in the long run.
If you clench your jaw, you can also change your mouth’s resting position by positioning your tongue at the roof of your mouth and letting your bottom jaw drop open. You should also practice breathing techniques: breathing deeply and regularly through your nose while doing this.
Practice progressive muscle relaxation
Firstly, find a quiet place where you can practice this. While lying or sitting, focus on your breathing, taking deep breaths, then tighten the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows as high as you can, hold for a moment, then relax.
Next, do the opposite: furrow your brow as intensely as possible, then relax. Then move onto the eyes: squeeze them shut and then open them again. You can do this to all of the muscles in your face, tightening and relaxing them as you scan downwards.
Get into a habit of doing this once a day so that your face becomes used to the feeling of being relaxed, and your muscles will be less likely to tense up by themselves. You can even do this throughout your entire body if you wish.
This exercise is perfect for doing first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, as a way of doing a “body scan” to relax your entire face and body.
Massage your face
Think a massage is only for your body? Think again. Massage is a perfect way to stimulate the muscles and release any tension.
Use both hands to gently massage your lymph nodes, which you’ll find just below your ears. Stroke them in a downwards motion on both sides, and then move onto your chin and jaw muscles - moving your index and middle finger together in a circular motion. Next massage your sinus area, which is on either side of your nose, before progressing to the delicate area beneath your eyes, and then lastly, your forehead and temples.
Be wary of applying too much pressure, as if you have a lot of tension in certain areas it may feel tender and uncomfortable if you press too hard.
Adding heat is also a great way to relax the muscles - apply a warm washcloth or take a hot shower before massaging your face.
Heat therapy has also proven beneficial for those suffering from headaches and migraines, as applying heat to a specific area increases blood circulation, while the warmth decreases muscle spasms, relaxes tense muscles, and relieves pain.
Get a professional massage
For an intense experience that will leave you relaxed and revived, why not get a professional facial massage? A masseuse or esthetician will know exactly the right areas to target and techniques to use to reduce tightness and tension in your facial muscles.
While this can be expensive, having a massage done by a professional allows you to fully relax and enjoy the experience. A drawback is of course that this is a one-off experience, so while it makes a great treat, you won’t get to learn how to massage and relax these areas yourself. An alternative is to compromise: why not get a friend or partner to massage you at home?
Exercise your facial muscles
A favorite among celebrities such as Meghan Markle, your face needs exercise just like your body does. Facial exercises cause your facial muscles to expand and contract, meaning you train them to relax.
Some simple facial exercises include stretching all of the muscles in your face and holding these for a few seconds before relaxing them again. You can also stretch your jaw by moving it to each side and holding this for a few seconds, and then pushing it forward so you have an exaggerated underbite. Puffing out your cheeks is also a great way to stretch your entire face: fill your mouth with air and hold for 20 seconds before blowing out. For the inverse stretch, suck your cheeks inwards and keep your lips together.
Doing these exercises once a day or several times a week will stimulate your blood flow and replenish your oxygen supply in the muscles. This is a great boost for your skin and will leave your complexion looking bright and healthy.
In the long-term, these exercises are also great for toning your skin and keeping your face looking slim. It also generates nutrients for skin cell regeneration which will prevent wrinkles.
Do some Facial Yoga
Facial yoga is also a great form of facial exercise but is more focussed on relaxation. Just like yoga can help your body relax, facial yoga uses similar techniques and sentiments.
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you may even have done examples of facial yoga before, for example, simply rubbing your hands together to warm your palms, and then gently placing them over your eyes to relieve tension from the eye area.
Reduce stress throughout your entire body
Try to think of your body as one complete unit rather than lots of separate parts. Your mind and body are intricately connected and therefore, if you’re stressed, your body will pick up on this and your muscles will tense up automatically.
As well as targeting your facial muscles, try relaxation techniques that you can extend to the rest of your body, and your mind too:
Yoga is a great way of strengthening the mind-body connection, and for developing mindfulness.
Regular yoga will release stored-up stress and improve your flexibility and range of movement. Yoga is also accessible for most people with moderate mobility and can be done by attending a class, or by watching videos online and practicing at home.
Meditation controls your breathing and allows you to hone your focusing skills. Deep, regular breaths can relax your body and mind, and it’s good to practice these whenever you feel stressed, or anxious, as well as just for general relaxation.
Some people focus their attention on calming images, their own body and how it feels, relaxing mantras, or even quiet music. By relaxing your mind and body, your facial muscles will also benefit.
We hope this article has shed some light on how to relax your facial muscles, and why it’s important.
Whether you decide to attend a yoga class, splash out on an expensive facial massage, or simply integrate some basic facial exercises into your daily routine, everyone can benefit from relaxing their facial muscles, as it stimulates blood flow and as a result, decreases tension.
The important thing to remember is that our body and mind are interconnected, so if you’re stressed on the inside, you’ll feel it on the outside, too. By practicing mindfulness or yoga, or by simply stretching every day, you can keep not only your mind calm but also your body, too.
In our opinion, the great thing about relaxing your facial muscles is that it can be completely free. While some people may prefer a professional massage, there are many benefits to learning how to relax your facial muscles by yourself.
Not only are they free to do, but they can be done virtually anywhere: sitting at your desk, on your daily commute, or even when you get into bed at night. In the long term, you’ll see and feel numerous benefits: from more supple skin to less frequent headaches.
In a world that is increasingly stressful and fast-paced, the least you can do for yourself is to take a couple of moments to relax those hard-working facial muscles.