TWEAKS 2 MYC #22: SMILING

Picture Tweaks to MYC 22

Would you agree that receiving a smile from a total stranger can brighten up your day? Consider the following scenario. You’re walking down the street with your head down after a terrible day at work. You feel angry and can’t wait to get back home. A bunch of negative thoughts are swirling around in your head and you can’t make them stop. When crossing the intersection, you lift your head and notice a person walking towards you. For a brief moment, they look at you and smile. You instantly feel better and realize that your problems are not that bad after all. Life is good!

Now, you can get the same types of benefits if you take the time to smile when you’re feeling down! Researchers have discovered that the simple act of smiling can increase positive mood (Yamamoto, Sugimori, & Shimada, 2010) and lower heart rate (Kraft & Pressman, 2012). Moreover, smiling can predict longevity! Abel and Kruger (2010) found that smile intensity (i.e., no smile, partial smile, full smile) is positively correlated with longevity.

Listen to Ron Gutman talk about “the hidden power of smiling” in his 2011 TED talk:

So, if you ever feel sad, stressed, or angry, STOP, TAKE A DEEP BREATH, and SMILE! It might not solve all your problems, but it’s going to help you take a step in the right direction.

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

References

Abel, E. L., & Kruger, M. L. (2010). Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity. Psychological Science, 21, 542-4.

Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and bear it: The influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological Science, 23, 1372-8.

Yamamoto, T., Sugimori, S., & Shimada, H. (2010). Effects of smiling manipulation on negative cognitive process during self-focused attention. The Japanese Journal of Psychology, 81, 17-25.

TWEAKS 2 MYC #17: WORK AS PLAY

Picture Tweaks to MYC 17

How you perceive life can have a tremendous impact on your performance and overall well-being. Perception refers to the way you see, think, and interact with the world around you. Think of it as the pair of sunglasses that filters every experience that you have. Do you wear Aviator sunglasses with a yellow tint or small and opaque Ray-Bans?

Most people see their daily activities as monotonous chores. They only do them because they have to! For instance, they go to work for the money, workout because it’s good for their health, and do groceries to stay alive. However, having this type of perception will prevent them from “mastering their craft”.

Incorporating elements of fun, enjoyment, and intrinsic motivation into your daily activities is necessary, if you want to “master your craft”. Therefore, you need to make sure that your pair of sunglasses enables you to see the world in a positive light. If your current sunglasses are dark and foggy, throw them away and look for another pair. Try to find your first pair of sunglasses. The rose-colored one you wore as a kid, which enabled you to view life in an unbiased, cheerful, and optimistic way.

Once again, you need to see how magnificent life is. More specifically, you need to start seeing “work as play”. For example, let’s say that you’re a salesperson for a large multinational corporation. You have a choice to either perceive your work as just cold-calling people to sell them a product or as a dance where you skillfully use your words and emotions to persuade clients to buy a product that will improve their lives. Can you see and feel the difference between these two scenarios? One scenario is dark and impersonal, while the other one is fun and positive. The situation is exactly the same for both, but the perception is what makes the difference!

It’s now time for us to make this switch for all activities in our lives. Let’s stop perceiving those activities as “work” and start seeing them as “play”.

Listen to Alan Watts, a very influential British philosopher from the 20th century, talk about the delight of seeing “work as play”:

Set aside quality time to complete this exercise. Give yourself a minimum of 20 minutes. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably and focus only on the task at hand. Take 3 deep breaths and relax (close your eyes if you need to). In your journal, make a list of the activities in your life that seem like “work” to you. Describe each activity in the most positive way possible. First, look at the small and simple parts and/or actions that make up this activity. This is usually where the “wonder” resides. Second, incorporate these parts and/or actions into your description.

Afterwards, develop a game for each activity (you can include consequences and rewards to make them more fun). For instance, if you are studying for an exam, try to challenge yourself to see if you can learn all the material in 2 days. If you’re able to do so, buy yourself your favorite chocolate bar. If you’re lifting weights in the gym, try to see if you can do every rep with perfect form and total control. If you succeed, end your workout with your favorite exercise. If not, finish your workout with an exercise that you find very challenging. These are just two examples. Make up your own game!

We must all come to the realization that life is already beautiful, exciting, and rewarding! You have five senses that enable you to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell amazing things. In addition, you have the unique ability to think of abstract ideas, engage in wonderful conversations with family, friends, and strangers, feel a vast array of emotions, and accomplish challenging physical and mental tasks. Stay positive, playful, and sincere. Your inner child will thank you!

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.