A smile or a shake can move your mood at any moment
Even though we just waved goodbye to the first month of the year, it seems as if 2022 has gotten off to a slow start. Introvert that I am, I very much enjoy the winter hibernating slowdown mode, but many folks (due to weather, retrograde planets, post-holiday blues, etc.) have been feeling frustrated, stuck, lost or simply unmotivated. The good news is that we have many other markers for new beginnings, like the Lunar New Year this time on Feb. 1, so if you’ve had a rough January, you get a fresh start infused with Water Tiger energy in the weeks and months to come. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
When I wrote my essay titled Happy back in 2014, the world was a very different place, one that certainly felt more carefree than it does today. But no matter what the external circumstances we find ourselves in, remember that we all have the power to choose how we respond to them, and always possess the ability to change our emotional state at will.
This doesn’t mean discounting serious mental health issues, which should be acknowledged and attended to professionally, or ignoring the very real feelings we experience in difficult situations. We need to do better at actually feeling our feelings — I am always saying how one of the biggest problems in our culture is that everyone is walking around emotionally constipated! Be sure to get the help that you need, and process what comes up for you when it does (in an appropriate place and time), but don’t get stuck in it; know that you can move the energy through you to feel better by crying, screaming into a pillow, taking a hot shower or going for a run.
But if you are just feeling off and want to “snap out of it,” need a healthy dose of dopamine to get yourself out of the blahs, or shake off a challenging interaction, there are lots of simple things at our disposal, like getting out in sunshine and fresh air (even if it’s 19 degrees out!) and listening, dancing and/or singing to music that makes you feel good.
The recently departed Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” The simple act of smiling tells your brain to release feel-good hormones, which means you can do that for yourself literally any minute of the day, even if you’re not actually “feeling” it. This is a life hack that I use often because it is so effective.
And when you do smile and others see you — or you smile directly at them — you get to spread that feel-good vibe (even when you’re not smiling, just squinting in the sun’s glare wearing shades, which can look like smiling, people react just the same — that’s how powerful it is!). Remember, as humans our emotions are contagious, so try to be a super spreader of the good kind ;)
Of course, you always have your breath, but we generally take this for granted and don’t optimize it. Being conscious and taking some deeper breaths throughout the day, and maybe even touching your hand to your heart while you do it is a great way to calm your nervous system, increase your O2 and connect to the parts of you that are always there for you no matter what — and that is something to be happy about.
For related thoughts on this topic, read my essay Happy
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Kristina Leonardi is a nationally recognized career and life coach, speaker and author who for over 14 years has empowered individuals to make lasting professional and personal changes aligned with their true passions and talents while fulfilling their role in the world at large.With a holistic and personal growth-oriented approach, she has helped hundreds of men and women over the past decade improve their job performance, enter or re-enter the job force, change careers, better manage their time and stress, and live happier, more meaningful, balanced lives. Her specialty is working with people who feel stuck or are in transition and can help you clarify exactly what you want to do, identify blocks, issues, and patterns in your way, and offer proven ideas, resources, and action steps to get you there.
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