What if happiness is closer than you think? What if being happy is a learnable skill. In one of my previous post, 11 Things To Do When You Are Overwhelmed, I mentioned forcing a smile in the face of chaos to turn the negative emotions into positive. One of my reader Margarita wondered if it really works and requested for a post dedicated to this. And she even suggested a headline “Fake Smile Creates Positive Emotion“, (but I decided to give it a slight tweak). Thank you, Margarita!!
I think we all have our fair share of negativity and days where we just wished we could skip over. If you are facing tremendous stress in your work or relationship, the last thing you would think of and wanted is to smile. I mean, for those who have never tried this, it really sounds absurd. If someone asked me to do exactly the same thing a year back I’ll probably go “Are you crazy? My life is in a mess and you asked me to what?? Smile??”
I don’t blame you if you have similar reactions. But here’s the thing.
It’s easy to get trapped in a negative cycle of emotional states. One negative thought leads to another. You see problems in every situation. And depending on your mental state, these cycles often could continue until you decided to break it. Feeling down and depressed doesn’t solve problems.
In fact, it only makes the situation worse, as you will be scaring yourself with wild imaginations of how things could go wrong. It’s like keeping your head under the water. How do you expect to see the land?
Here’s what I decided to do one fine day when my mind was so clouded with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts of despair, sadness, regrets, blame, and anger enough to cause another depressive spell.
I decided to force myself into a smile. It’s just a simple but powerful act of pulling my mouth upward into a smile. I didn’t know what to expect back then, but in a sudden, my thought changes. It became brighter and lighter. Thoughts of hope, possibilities, and even joy started to replace those negative ones. The clouds of negativity gave way to true feelings of joy and happiness.
Call it feelings of happiness from emotional memory or what (I don’t know the right term). It doesn’t matter. The fact is ,the chain of negativity is broken, just like that. It is different than being in denial, where people turned to alcohol and drugs to forget their problems. I’m perfectly aware of problems and issues at hand. It’s just that I am now facing it with a calmer and positive mindset.
“But maybe it’s just a coincidence? ” I don’t blame you for questioning the method.
But I have repeated the same trick again, a few times after. And it works perfectly well. I’m not saying or claiming that smiling will solve our problems or make your stressors disappear. I’m saying by experience that smiling makes you feel positive. Your energy changes to a higher level. And it does indeed give you better perspective looking when you’re looking for solutions.
I really want to back up my story with other resources. As soon as I knew I would be writing this post, I emailed Dr. Marcia Reynolds ( who’s article has given me insight on my post How To Find Your Purpose In Life) for her opinion. Here’s her answer when I emailed her on how fake smiles could create positive real happiness.
“There is a lot of research that indicates both posture and facial gestures can shift a person’s emotional state. As Amy Cuddy of the Harvard Business School taught us, if before going into an interview or meeting, you stand up straight and put your hands on your hips, you feel more powerful from the inside out. Smiling works the same way. When you smile, your brain reacts to the change in your muscles by secreting dopamine and serotine, which make you feel better all over. The positive expression will trump the negative feeling. If you practice this in situations where you feel uncomfortable or disappointed, the practice will rewire your brain so your negative reactions will decrease over time. Smiling is a great habit to develop!
If you need more proof, just remember the last time you were angry with someone and then they made you laugh. You just couldn’t be angry any longer, right?”
Dr. Marcia Reynold has a doctorate in organizational psychology. With her expertise in emotional intelligence, leadership, and speech, she has been coaching top CEOs and corporate leaders and has taught in more than 30 countries.
If you are interested in learning more about shifting your emotional states or choosing how to feel and act, her book Outsmart Your Brain is one that you must read. (You can click the image below to read the reviews from Amazon).
Or you can check out her website here.
You do not need to wait for all your problems to go away to be happy. You do not need to be rich to be happy. Neither do you need to be successful, slim, handsome, pretty, or anything to be happy. Happiness is always within you at this present moment. You just have to know the right way to reach for it.
There is a truth to the quotes “Happiness is not a destination“, Happiness is Now” or “Happiness is not out there, it’s in you“. It is not rocket science in being happy (yet so many struggles for it). This is where the skill and mindset plays an important role. People practice mindfulness meditation, to learn to live in the present. That is happiness.
I can’t blog about happiness without mentioning Andrew Matthews, the author my first ever motivational book, How Life Works.(I read that when I was leaving high school, that’s more than a decade back.) He delivers his wisdom right to the point and with a touch of humor in the illustration. His book Happiness In Hard Times is one you that may want to check out.
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