A Simple Happiness Hack

Happiness can be so many things: self-care, time with loved ones, gardening, watching the waves at the beach… But today I have one simple happiness hack for you that works – and fast!

Go with this for a minute: make a big toothy Cheshire Cat kind of grin and hold it while you are reading this – I’ll let you know when to stop.

{I call this Smile Therapy.}

While you’re busy grinning away, a few happiness facts for you:

  1. Happiness is a choice. There’s research that 40% of our happiness is within our control. Try lingering on little positive moments and this smile therapy exercise to make that 40% work for you.
  2. Happiness is contagious. Connecting with happy people will make you happy too.
  3. Getting enough sleep can help you retain positive thoughts. Turns out Grumpy may have just needed more sleep to be like his friend Happy.

You can relax that toothy grin now.

Now, take a quick inventory. What do you notice now about your body or mood?  Did some tension dissipate? Do you feel a little lighter?

We all know that our facial expressions are a byproduct of our emotions. But interestingly, research shows that our facial expressions influence our emotions as well. It’s like a feedback loop. In other words, planting a big smile on your face can very well be the thing to trigger your brain to a happy set point even when you’re not feeling particularly joyful.

The big trick is you have to hold it for at least 15 seconds (which is about how long it took you to read the Happiness Facts above) because that is how long it takes your brain to really take in positive chemicals or notice that positive stuff is happening. What a quick fix!

If Happy isn’t your go-to emotion, go easy on yourself. Turns out, the brain isn’t physically wired to take in happiness the way it’s wired to sense danger and anticipate it (we can do that in a split-second). So you need to be conscious about finding happiness and taking it in!

Beyond this 15-second simple happiness hack, you can cultivate happiness by keeping a gratitude journal. At the end of your day list “what went well today”, what you’re grateful for – even the little stuff  (like drinking enough water for the day, good hair days, puppy Instagram videos, your child’s sleeping face, having exact change…). All of the little things stack up to be a positive boost to your sense of well being, and taking note of them will help improve your happiness set point!

So when you are in stressful situation and need some instant relief, give this Smile Therapy happiness hack a try. And if you see some woman in LA traffic grinning like a maniac, that’s me!

I smile, so I must be happy,” – Judith Grob, Happiness Researcher

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