Having a Great Day
Most people would agree that it is a great day when you feel confident, in control, in an upbeat mood and ready and eager to face the challenges of the day. You could call it happiness but it is more. You are flourishing, energized, feeling good in the moment and facing life so you will feel good tomorrow.
Stress goes down and self-esteem goes up, and when self-esteem goes up so does your mood.
The Underlying Psychology
Positive emotions not only lead to a good day, they help you build the resources to face life’s challenges and to have a good day, every day. Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory of positive emotions puts it this way. Positive emotions reduce stress and open your mind to new ideas and enable you to see new solutions. In this state you not only face reality, you build new cognitive resources to do so with greater ease in the future. The process helps you have a great day, every day.
Not to dwell on the negative, but think of a stressful or frustrating situation where things did not go as you expected. Rather than having an open-mind, it is harder to see other perspectives, and frustration, anxiety and stress go up. This is not a good day and it is unlikely that it will get better, unless YOU turn the tide.
A caveat! The techniques discussed below are not an alternative to medical treatments for clinical depression or anxiety. They could be a great compliment.
Everyday Ways to Prime a Good Day and Keep it Rolling
Start the day in a positive mood.
The magic potion – a smile! When you have finished your morning grooming, look in the mirror and give yourself a big smile. Turn those lips up and smile with your eyes by fully opening them. Take the time to really see your smile in the mirror and to absorb it as it bounces back.
Here’s why this works. We know that we smile when we are happy but dozens of research studies show that the reverse is also true – smile and it lifts your mood and it decreases stress hormone levels.
Can you fake it? You bet! The activation of the muscles involved in smiling trigger the positive emotion centers of the brain. Holding a pencil in your lips activates some of the same muscles as a genuine smile and, voila, you get the positive effect. But, don’t hold the pencil in your teeth; this causes a down turn of the lips and a frown. It gets better if you learn to open the eyes at the same time, and better yet if you learn to genuinely smile. You can learn to do this! As for the mirror, it intensifies the effect and gives you the feedback to learn to genuinely smile.
Smiling in the morning is a no-cost way to prime a good day and only takes a moment. If you’re feeling tense or down in the middle of the day, head for the restroom and give yourself a smile. Or smile at a friend, associate or even a stranger. Smiles and moods are contagious so it is highly likely that they will smile back.
Don’t Let Frowns Creep into Your Day!
When you work at a computer or use a mobile device the natural tendency is to squint, put your head forward, round your shoulders – and frown. The same thing happens if you are driving and squinting into the sun for too long. Get your sunglasses out.
We smile when we are happy and frown when we are in a negative mood. And, yes frowning can bring on a negative mood.
Injecting Botox into the muscle of the forehead paralyzes the muscles involved in frowning. When depressed individuals get this treatment, they feel less depressed and more upbeat. But you don’t have to be clinically depressed for a down mood to ruin your day. Taping golf tees to the sides of the forehead in normal people and asking them to bring the tees together simulates a frown and, yes it brings on a negative mood. So does trying to bring your eyebrows together.
Another good reason to lose the frown is that it intensifies pain (like being in a dentist’s chair) and keeps heart rates elevated after a stressful event. Conversely, a smile has the opposite effect, even a fake smile. You can influence your mood. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/smile-it-could-make-you-happier/. Even a neutral expression is better than a frown.
So what do you do if you have hunched over your computer too long or other events of the day have caused you to frown and brought on a less than cheery disposition?
First, get rid of the frown. Second, smile. Putting a cool, damp cloth on your forehead is one way but not always possible. A good alternative is to mindfully relax the muscles of your forehead. Let your eyes close partially and enjoy the sensation of the muscles relaxing. The more you practice this the better you get at it and the more it will interrupt a down mood.
Now you are ready to SMILE and get on with having a good day.