We’re in charge of our emotions. You’ve likely heard that. While it’s true, it can sound unreal or unlikely, if not unreachable. What’s the key to choosing to feel happy? We can think of it like exercising and building muscle; if we have the right focus and consistency and commitment, and the right technique, we’ll be successful.
You’ve also probably heard the phrase “Fake it till you make it.” Sometimes that’s not a good idea, but sometimes it really does work. If we’re really angry or very sad, even depressed, focusing on how we want to feel may not be enough to let go completely, but it does help (hopefully you have many other tools in your toolbox). If we’re feeling bored or frustrated, irritated or worried, it can help a lot.
Because our facial muscles are involved in smiling, and smiling triggers happy chemicals in the brain, we can actually practice feeling happy, or at least happier. If you’re game, you can try it right now. Whatever you’re feeling at the moment, just focus on your face and make yourself smile. At first it may not feel authentic, but go with it. Once you have a bit of a smile, try to get the muscles around your eyes to deepen the smile. We can put on a fake smile, and it looks like a smile, but if it makes it to our eyes, it’s real. This is one way to determine whether someone else is really smiling or just being polite or inauthentic…do you see the smile in their eyes?
Now pay attention to your emotional state. You likely notice that after maintaining a smile for several seconds…a real smile, your mood begins to shift. Your energy lifts and it seems like a better moment, if not a better day.
This is an important technique for me. Born with thin lips which turn down a little at the corners, Chinese face reading would suggest that I’m stubborn, focused, a deep thinker, overly principled, pessimistic, opinionated, inwardly focused, serious, intelligent. I have to acknowledge that those are my tendencies. Thankfully I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on becoming more patient, feeling grateful for everything in my life and seeing the positive in things, as well as reaching out to others. And I really do like to have fun and be happy! But, I can get in a rut if I’m not conscious of my outlook. Practicing smiling changes my emotional state immediately.
As soon as I start smiling, I feel my energy lift and the day feels brighter, I start to notice the good things more, and I feel more excited about the day. This is pretty easy if I’m just feeling neutral to start with, or even pretty peppy, but just not smiling outwardly. When I’m frustrated or irritated or impatient, it takes more work to smile and make the shift.
Sounds funny to think that it takes effort to smile, huh? But it is easy to get locked into our less than happy emotional state. Practicing smiling and encouraging ourselves…choosing to feel happy, can really make a significant impact in our mood.
At first, if you have a hard time even faking a smile, because you’re so upset or sad or angry, you can visualize someone or something that always makes you happy, even if you’re not feeling it at the moment. Keep focusing and encouraging yourself to smile, give yourself permission to let go and enjoy the smile, then focus on making it bigger.
If you smile most of the time…that’s awesome. You have a lot of joy in your life. You don’t likely need to use this technique, but you can share it with others you know who might be struggling with their emotions.
If you have a hard time making yourself smile, keep practicing. Like the muscle building analogy, you have to practice often, consistently, for it to have a long-term effect. Keep ‘working out’ your smile muscles and see how your mood shifts! If your emotions feel out of control and you’d like to chat about how to change that, we can connect with a free discovery call.
Have a happy day!