Monday, February 09, 2009

Smile! Your Mood Depends On It!

How can something so simple be so effective? There's a trick to it.

(cc) Douglas CooteyLook at this guy! It doesn't seem like he has a care in the world. I couldn't smile that way if I received a seven figure advance and a seven book deal in the mail. I couldn't smile like that if God Himself had marked the paths of opportunity with seraphim out into the world for me and pushed me in the right direction. I couldn't look that happy if I had slept for twelve full hours and then received a three hour backrub. I can say that with certain authority. I slept for twelve hours yesterday and don't feel any differently today.

To be honest, my left arm hurts like I slept on it wrong and my hair is permanently matted like Alfalfa's, but that might be too much information…

Smiling is something that has not come easy for me since I was at least eight – not since entering grade school and having the happiness stamped out of me by a crusty school system and loving peers. Growing up with ADHD was not an easy thing in the 70s. I felt like The Boy with Green Hair, but not just because of ADHD. I also had ugly, yellow, spaced teeth. I was ashamed to smile. But I tried.

Over the years I would hear how important it was to smile. As a teenager, I learned from Richard Simmons that smiling helped offset the pull frowning made on our face. In college, I learned that smiling improved our moods and helped people like us better. None of it seemed to help me. I would even practice smiling in front of the mirror, and I'd still look like this:

The secret I eventually learned was to like myself. It's hard to smile when you are filled with self-loathing. I had to practice thinking positively as well – to train myself to stop being a glass half-full kind of guy. Without those elements I just got sore cheeks, but together with smiling practice I worked a change on myself.

I still don't look half as cheerful as Omer there, but when I'm feeling down, a little bit of smiling practice goes a long way towards improving my mood. Sure, I feel stupid. That helps me smile all the more. Making the effort to improve my mood is what counts. Now that I like the man I see in the mirror, my entire outlook on life has changed. You can improve your outlook as well.

Do you have things you do to lift your spirits when you're down? Share them below.

In the meantime, you might enjoy some of these articles:

Snopes takes on the Muscles to Smile/Frown myth. Smiling wins! gives us ten reasons to smile. The first one hasn't worked for me yet.

Can you smile your way to success? I found that optimism helped me cope with life better than pessimism. This study backs that up.

I found this advice mostly useless. Eat Brazil nuts‽ But then again, I'm telling you to smile your depression away so who am I to judge?

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