3 Simple Ways To Instantly Improve How You Feel
Which one came first, the chicken, or the egg?
I’m sure this isn’t the first time that you’ve heard the question, but did you know that the same idea could be applied to the way you feel? How you behave impacts how you feel, and vice versa, so the question that I would love you to ponder is:
“Do we smile because we feel good, or do we feel good because we smile?”
I have recently been reading the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People and in it is mentioned a quote from psychologist and philosopher, William James:
"Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.
Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. ..."
The awesome thing here? That means that you don’t have to be stuck in how you feel right now. You have the capacity to change the way that you feel - it doesn’t have to be something that ebbs and flows on its own, but rather, it is something that you can take concrete steps to improve.
If our emotions are guided by the movements that we do every day, then there are two things (possibly a third) that instantly spring to mind as being critically important to maintaining a healthy mental attitude. The first is the way that we carry ourselves all the time. If you maintain a powerful, upright, confident stance, and this impacts on the way you feel, then what sort of emotions are likely to follow? Conversely, if your shoulders are slumped, your head is down, and you are walking around, as Dan John describes it, looking like an apostrophe - how are you likely to feel then?
The second thing that is crazily important, and that links into the first, is breathing properly (you may have heard me beat this drum before…). Take a deep breath through your nose - right now. How many people do you think can breathe deeply without finding that they are straighter, taller, and feel more relaxed and empowered? Didn’t you? I imagine stepping out into a cold day and breathing deeply the crisp dry air, or coming to the beach and smelling the salt on the waves, even preparing myself for a challenge coming ahead. In each of these situations, when I imagine taking the breath, I feel excited, calmed, and steeled for the challenge ahead. I don’t know if that is the headspace it takes you into, and if you do go somewhere different, I’d love for you to share it below, but I’d hazard a guess that not many people imagine feeling worse for taking a deep, diaphragmatic breath?
The third and final thing that popped out for me (so it was three, definitely three, and at the moment, I’m sticking to it…) was smiling. I know, I know, cheating when it’s what I started with. The power of a smile is almost immeasurable. Smiles make us feel good, but they also have the added bonus of making everyone around us feel good and well. Smiles, when given, make both parties richer. If your emotions mimic your behaviours or movements don’t you think that smiling as often as possible is a great plan? There is a way to supercharge your smile though. Have you ever seen someone skipping with a frown on their face? As in skipping like a little schoolgirl from point to point, frowning and looking angry? I’ve never seen it, and I doubt I ever will (although I have seen a couple of high-level martial artists who can skip while keeping a perfectly straight face - that blew my mind…). When you skip, you automatically smile, and everyone around you is going to be far more inclined to smile as well.
You have the power to change the way you feel and to rewire your brain so that it is constantly working with you rather than against you. My challenge for you today is to spend time breathing deliberately from your diaphragm. Spend time standing tall as though you were being dragged up by the crown of your head with your chin loosely tucked towards your neck. Smile as often as humanly possible. Every time you buy something or talk to someone, smile so often and so generously that people think that you have a screw loose.
If you are interested in ways to create a more permanent postural change, please get in touch via our contact form, or come to our beginner workshop so that we can help you to do all three things mentioned in the article above - we have great coaches and a great community - we smile a lot… If you’re unable to make it in to see us through, please check out OriginalStrength.net for skills and drills on breathing and skipping that will get you on the path to feeling and moving brilliantly.