The answer is yes, it does…big time. It can actually fool your brain into thinking you’re happy. Have you ever walked down the street and had someone smile at you? How did it make you feel?
Several years ago when I lived at Lake of the Ozarks I lived outside of town in the country about a quarter mile off of Hwy 54, a four-lane highway. I had been a walker for several years and for those of you that know what country gravel roads are like, there’s not a lot of shoulder room to walk on when traffic goes by. In fact, you’d usually have to jump into the ditch.
So, I started walking along the highway because there was a nice wide shoulder to walk on. Soon after I started walking on the highway I noticed that some traffic would move over a lane to stay clear of me. I’d wave as a thank you.
Then one day as I waved, a young woman smiled back. It instantly put a smile on my face and for the next 3 and ½ years I waved and smiled at everyone that drove by. I recognized that everyone deserved a wave and a smile.
The reactions I got were amazing and heartwarming. There were so many instances of people telling me what I difference I had made in their day. Many said they looked forward to their drive home in hopes that they would see “The Waving Guy” to get their wave and smile.
Here’s how it works.
Scientists have known for a while that emotions are accompanied by a variety of changes in the body, from elevated heart rate to flexion of the zygomatic major muscle or the smile muscle. More recently though, they’ve come to recognize that it’s a two-way street.
Your brain actually pays attention to what your body is doing, and it affects your emotions. This was first called the “facial feedback hypothesis”, but it applies to more than just muscles of the face. The good news is that while it’s often difficult to control our emotions, it’s much easier to control our muscles.
In addition to facial muscles, the brain is affected by the rest of your physiology. For example are you standing up straight or have your shoulders hunched forward? Is your head held high or is it hanging down?
Studies have shown that it doesn’t take a lot of positive self-talk and positive mental attitude to change your mood. Simple things like putting a smile on your face and standing up straight will trick your brain into thinking you’re happy.
Take a look in the mirror.
Put a smile on your face and see what happens. The effects, even if it’s a fake smile, can be felt almost immediately. You may not feel on top of the world, but you’ll feel a little better. The more you practice smiling, the easier it will be to feel happy.
So, why am I telling you this?
Because it is so much harder to date when you’re not happy! It shows up in your online dating profile pictures, your social media pictures, and even in conversations on the phone. You can actually “hear” when someone is smiling. If you don’t believe me, call someone and have them smile while their talking to you. You’ll notice a difference in their voice.
It’s pretty incredible what a little smile can do. It can change your outlook on the day and they can be infectious. Try smiling at someone and odds are they’re going to smile back.
Practice makes perfect.
Practice smiling at yourself each morning as you’re getting ready for the day. Practice standing up straight, shoulders back and head up. It won’t be long and you’ll have a consistently good attitude. You’ll feel happy more of the time.
I learned some of these techniques for life coach Tony Robbins many years ago. It has made an incredible difference in my life. These simple changes can have a lifetime impact.
Those that know me well will tell you I rarely have a bad day. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get upset or angry about things. It just means that I don’t dwell on that stuff much anymore.
Another benefit that comes with being happier is that a positive outlook will allow your brain to be more creative and find better solutions to your problems more quickly.
It’s a compounding effect. A simple smile can change a moment in your day. That moment can change your day. That day can change your week. With enough good days and good weeks you’ve changed your year. And along the way, how many lives have you impacted with a little smile?
I hope today’s topic is helpful. Join me next week for “Are you crystal clear about what you want in your next relationship?”