I’m a pretty stubborn guy, and in most cases I have to learn something the hard way. So, it’s possible that people tried to give me the following tips early on when I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I ignored them, only to discover their benefit later on. I thought I’d split them up so that if you like what I have to say you can spend the next fortnight working on one, then the other. Remember, small steps are the key to making massive improvements in your life.
Todays post is about smiling, and the benefits it had on my health. The following post will be about stretching and the importance of staying limber.
At my worst, I would wake in the morning feeling unrefreshed. Even if I’d managed to get 8 hours sleep I would still feel exhausted. Getting out of bed felt like an impossible task.
Then, one day, as I lay in bed trying to muster the energy to take on the world, I smiled. For the life of me I can’t work out what I was smiling about, but you know what, I felt a wave of energy flood through my body. I felt like getting up. I felt like I had the ability to rise from my bed and see what was happening.
Despite this new found ability, and probably because I was in a pretty negative headspace at the time, I thought it was all just a fluke, a one off, and that I shouldn’t get too excited about what had happened. However, because I’m also inquisitive, I decided I would try smiling for no apparent reason again the next morning so I could see what would happen.
The following morning came around and I felt like I’d been run over by a stream train, fairly standard really. I didn’t feel happy, and I definitely didn’t feel like smiling, but I did it anyway. I forced the biggest, fakest smile I could, and core blimey, it worked. Energy swept though me. It released the tension in my back and neck and my brain started to push away the fog that was clouding it.
I probably looked like an idiot, lying in bed, fake smiling at the ceiling, but my brain was happy, and it was telling the rest of my body that it could feel happy too.
So I kept on doing it. Every morning I would force a smile, and by doing so I was training my brain to be happy in the morning. I’d spent so long dreading the mornings and the lack of refreshment that came with it, that waking up exhausted had become a negative habit. By forcing myself to smile I was breaking the default pattern my brain had got stuck in.
Over time I began to wake up feeling more refreshed. Each day I would smile at the ceiling and engage the release of positive energy that would propel me from bed. Then one day I woke up and felt good. I didn’t need to fake smile to get my energy hit, it was there all by itself. My many months of training had broken the energy suck that was mornings and replaced it with how I used to feel. This bought on a smile, a genuine one.
I still use this technique today. It’s normal to have nights where you don’t sleep well, but when I wake up in the morning after a poor nights sleep I smile at the world and get a free hit of energy to get me going.
I know it sounds silly, and if I was in your position reading this post I’d probably be dismissive. But here’s the thing, what happens if you just give it a go? Get that smile of yours going, make it as big as you can. Don’t worry that it might look fake, you’re in bed, no one is going to see you. What have you got to lose?
If you're not convinced then it might be worth digging into the science for yourself. Here's a few links that might get you started.
Scientific American - Smile, it could make you happier
The Atlantic - Forcing a smile genuinely decreases stress