The Power of Your Smile

Fake it ‘til you make it. You’ve heard that, but have you actually tried it?

Your brain does not know the difference between reality and pretense. When you pretend to feel a certain way, your brain produces the chemicals to match and, before you know it, you actually DO feel that way.

Actor Anthony Hopkins knows how true this is. In an appearance on Oprah, he revealed that he had gone through bouts of depression. He linked at least some of it to his acting and the roles he plays. He said that when you play certain characters and act in a certain way, your body does not know you are “acting.”

He went on to say that he often works with a particular director who likes to shoot a lot of takes. In one movie they did together, Hopkins’ character was scripted to have a heart attack. He told this director to be sure to capture the scene in one or two takes because that was all he would do. He knew that as he convincingly acted out a heart attack, his risk of actually having one increased with every take.

If “fake it ‘til you make it” works for bad moods, it certainly works for good ones, as well.

Right now, while you are reading this, stop for a moment and smile. I mean REALLY smile. Grin from ear to ear. Notice how good you feel. If you are smart, you will keep that smile because the longer it’s there, the better you will feel.

Where can you apply this in your life?

I use it is to regulate my mood. For example, when I’m grouchy or frustrated, if I take the time to stop and smile, it always puts me in a good mood.

What’s fascinating about human beings is how often we know how to get out of a bad mood and refuse to.

Who are you hurting by clinging to a bad mood? Although it’s true that you may be “punishing” those around you by acting out your displeasure, the biggest victim, and Anthony Hopkins would agree, is you—the one acting out the bad mood.

Clinging to a bad mood is like taking poison, hoping your enemy will die.

One area in which you can use this technique is performance. Dr. Charles Garfield, in his book Peak Performance, reported on his work with the Russian Olympic weight-lifting team. Garfield noticed that when team members lifted to exhaustion, they would invariably grimace at the painful effort. In an experiment, he encouraged the athletes to smile when they got to that point of exhaustion. This seemingly minor difference enabled them to add 2—3 more reps to their performance.

No matter the task, when you grimace while doing it, you are sending your brain the message, “This is really hard. I cannot do any more.” When you smile, your brain gets the message, “I can do this.”

Every grimace, every sigh, every sound of frustration you produce tells your brain how difficult you find your tasks. Your brain then responds by sending stress chemicals into your bloodstream. The more stressed you grow, the more difficult the tasks become. It is a vicious circle.

How much more could you get done in a day if you turned every grimace into a smile?

Every smile, every happy whistle, every little spring in your step tells your brain how easily things are going and those good chemicals flow into your bloodstream. The more relaxed you feel, the easier your tasks become.

If your smile produces such powerful results, just imagine what your laughter might do!

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