Keep Smiling. It’s Good for You

I’ve been writing about heavy topics lately and want to lighten it up a little bit for this blog. Today’s topic? Smiling.

In my research for this blog, I came across a post on the Psychology Today website dated June 25, 2012, by guest blogger Sarah Stevenson*. It was titled There’s Magic in Your Smile, How smiling affects your brain. I really like the way Sarah describes how smiling affects the brain and I’d like to share an excerpt from her post…

How Smiling Affects Your Brain

Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.

For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, or excited. The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well. This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever — 100-percent organic and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions.

Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter —and you don’t need a prescription from your doctor.

How Smiling Affects Those Around You

Did you know that your smile is actually contagious? The part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression of smiling when happy or mimicking another’s smile resides in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area. Looking at the bigger picture, each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release feel-good chemicals in your brain, activate reward centers, make you both more attractive, and increase the chances of you both living longer, healthier lives.

I wrote the first version of the following poem/song titled “Smile-away” in the 1989/90 timeframe. Recently, I got it out and re-worked it until it became the version you see below.

I have a challenge for you. Try to get through this piece with a frown on your face. I’ll bet by the time you’ve said smile-away four times you will be smiling, just from reading the words…and if so, go with it. Smiling, as described in this blog, is not such a bad thing after all!

Smile-Away

Smile away, when you’re feeling blue.
Smile away, it’s getting better for you.
When times get tough and life gets you down
you can smile away, cuz it will soon turn around.

Smile away, when your blue skies turn gray.
Smile away, everything will be okay.
When times get tough and life gets you down
you can smile away, cuz it will soon turn around.

Smile away the tears of today
Smile away, no matter what they say
When you smile away soon you will see
Your smile will always set you free

Smile away, girl don’t you cry.
Smile away, and never ask why.
Good times and bad both come and they go,
Remember, from the rain comes a brilliant rainbow.

Smile away, each and every day
Smile away, no matter what they say
When you smile away soon you will see
Your smile will always set you free

Smile away. when you’re feeling blue.
Smile away, it’s getting better for you.
When you smile away soon you will see
Your smile will always set you free, set you free, set you free…

—–

Now keep smiling.

*Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, is a certified yoga instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes, but also life-affirming workshops

What Is the Definition of Win in a Cancer Battle?

In today’s society, a lot of emphasis is placed on winning and losing. But why? And what is the definition of “win” anyway?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of everyone getting a “feel-good” ribbon for participating in an event. In fact, I’ve found that some of life’s most valuable lessons are acquired through experiencing the competitive thrill of victory or agony of defeat. But when we’re talking about a cancer diagnosis and battle or contest, it’s an entirely different ballgame.

Winning Isn’t Everything? Really?

Seldom does the topic of winning come up, in any aspect of life, without mention of the famous quote: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” That quote is often attributed to the legendary head football coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi. And yet, you may be surprised to learn that in the documentary titled Lombardi, a sportswriter recounts a conversation with Coach Lombardi where the Coach told him, “I wish to hell I’d never said [that].”

Coach Lombardi went on to say, “What I believe is, if you go out on a football field, or any endeavor in life, and you leave every fiber of what you have on the field, then you’ve won.”

Apparently, Coach Lombardi learned some life lessons after his famous quote. It made him rethink his definition of win.

You vs. Cancer: The Definition of “Win”

The cancer battle discussed throughout Know Your Enemy isn’t “won” in the traditional sense.

I believe, as Coach Lombardi, that to win means having the physical and mental toughness to take on this enemy head-on, with every ounce of your being every day. It requires a total commitment to doing whatever it takes in terms of the team you build and the treatments that you pursue, and leaving nothing on the table. Lastly, it means surrounding yourself with your faith, family, and friends to help you to navigate one of life’s most difficult challenges.

If you were to ask me what is the one thing readers should take away from this book, I would say it is having an understanding that in cancer, as in life, there are many factors beyond our control—stage, type, detection, genetic composition, environment, diet, fate, etc.—all of which will play a role in determining the outcome of the battle.

It’s important to remember to focus your time and energy on the things you can control or change. As the Serenity Prayer says:

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

That is the secret to standing tall against the enemy. That is the definition of “win.”

The Real Warriors: Cancer Fighters

In the dedication section of Know Your Enemy, I described the individuals that I believe are the real warriors of our time.

They are not to be confused with so-called warrior athletes, labeled as such from their “freakish” exploits on the field of play. The individuals I am referring to are not playing a kids’ game; they are adults and children, patients and caregivers, and medical professionals engaged in a daily struggle against a formidable opponent—cancer.

In re-reading this description five years later, I don’t think I could say it any better today, so I’ve included an excerpt for this blog…

They are the chemotherapy patients on a cocktail so strong they have little energy to get out of bed in the morning—or the radiation patients that suffer treatment side effects, such as severe joint or nerve pain or burning skin. Then add the responsibilities of raising a family or maintaining a career, and now you’re talking about a Herculean effort just to make it through the day.

They are also the caregivers whose worlds are turned upside down when a loved one is confronted with a cancer diagnosis. They need to be strong in helping to battle this enemy, while coping with their own fear and trauma.

Last, but not least, they are the medical professionals on the front lines caring for, supporting, and consoling patients and family members in their greatest time of need.

— Dedication excerpt, October 2015

Do you have someone in your life that has exhibited extraordinary strength of character in their battle with cancer? If so, have you told this real warrior that he (or she) is your hero? If not, what are you waiting for?

So here is my ode to the real warriors in my life.

To my mother, Maxine R. Antonicelli; my wife, Alyson C. Antonicelli; my little buddy, Derek Johnson #223 (son of Tina and Scott Johnson); personal friend and neighbor Stephen B. Wagoner; and all those who are engaged against the enemy—cancer—this book is dedicated to you, for you are true warriors, gladiators in the arena of life.
Frank Antonicelli

Love Heals: The Most Powerful Cancer-Fighting Tool

Today, I feel compelled to write about something emotionally powerful; something that has the ability to (literally) change lives. It is the healing power of love. And I can say this with certainty: love heals.

How I Know Love Heals

In the 1st edition of my book, Know Your Enemy, Chapter 1: Gather Your Troops, I touched on the healing power of love as described by Deepak Chopra. He writes “The use of love is to heal. When it flows without effort from the depth of the self, love creates health.”

And I agree. I believe, at its core, there is a real purity and electricity that is created in a loving environment. The result is very powerful — almost super-natural — force that has infinite abilities to heal the human body.

I witnessed first-hand how the love and compassion from family and friends directed toward my mother, Maxine, and my wife, Alyson, gave off an electricity that energized their spirits on a daily basis. This outpouring of love also acted as a force-field to help protect their bodies from the constant attacks by this enemy.

How You Can Utilize Love to Heal

I believe love may be the single greatest weapon in the treatment arsenal against cancer … or any major illness you may be battling. Why? Because love is a foreign concept to disease and has the potential to aid in overpowering any health condition.

In today’s modern times, many people are seeking natural remedies and holistic approaches to fight everything from cancer to OCD. But is there a more natural or holistic approach to fighting an enemy than tapping into and utilizing the healing power of love?

Don’t rely on medications, injections and medical treatments alone to win your battles. Know that love heals. Trust it. Surround yourself and your loved ones with the most powerful healing energy.

And one last note … I would be remiss if I wrote about the topic of love without mentioning one of the best songs of all-time with love in the title. That would be The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love. It’s not a bad mantra and first step for any treatment regimen.