Originally, I planned to title this post “Ten Seconds to Happy,” but later on I make reference to one Ms. Kimmy Schmidt, and the jarring visual of a salty stick of meat draped in crinoline was too good to pass up. (Titus, you legend.) And besides, I’ve been hard at work channeling strength and self-love, so a metaphor for tough and beautiful seemed apropos.
So here’s the thing: happiness is only ten seconds away. Less, even. This might sound farfetched, but neuroscience and Netflix suggest otherwise.
It’s important to recognize that change is not spontaneous. Generally speaking, that is. In fact, it’s often the opposite: change requires a catalyst. Person, place, or thing, catalysts ingratiate change and make it possible, for better or for worse.
Recent catalysts in my own life have sent me down to the water, panning for golden change. Those who seek, find.
I once heard somewhere (okay, it was on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and yes, I’m a Netflixaholic) that you can do anything for ten seconds. The enthusiasm and energy with which Ellie Kemper trumpets this idea got me, sitting on my lumpy futon in Saskatoon, pretty darn excited. I began tackling nagging tasks like dishes with a ten-second mindset. Count to ten, then again, and again… and before you know it, the deed is done.
The problem, however, is that we rarely consider our emotional to-do’s in the same way we do chores or other overt behaviours. There are fewer tangible benefits to taking your emotional temperature than there are to cleaning your room. What’s more, inner work is associated with hard work, hard work is associated with pain, and pain is associated with “ew, no thanks.” Throw an emotional funk or rut into the mix, and the avoidance of pain (and, therefore, resistance to change) becomes a capital concern–even when all signs point to your current circumstance as the culprit.
Lately I’ve been reading and writing my way through some eye-opening theories and materials (hit me up if you want to nerd out over positive psychology and modern psychoanalysis), and at some point along this introspective road trip I thought to myself: if I can do anything for ten seconds, that must mean I can “do” happy… right?
Science says “heck yes, you can!” There is empirical reason to believe the emotions we display physically affect the emotions we experience psychically. For example, researchers in Wales and Munich carried out studies with participants post-Botox and found that physically inhibiting the display of negative emotions (frustration, anger, and so on) was correlated with an improved perception of events. More on this here.
Okay, so I’m not independently wealthy enough to afford Botox injections to tackle the pesky 11’s that have started to plague my brow, but that doesn’t mean a good old fashioned smile couldn’t also do the trick. And with that, I added a new item to my morning routine: ten uninterrupted seconds of smiling.
Guess what? It works!
So here’s your happiness homework: commit to smiling [at least] ten seconds each day. You can choose to watch yourself in the mirror, or not; either way, your mood will transform. I’m not promising euphoria, but the load of #adulting will feel a bit lighter.
Will you feel a bit ridiculous, smiling without reason? Sure, but that’s okay–you’re beef jerky in a ball gown. You’re tough and beautiful.
P.S. – Thanks for all the love and well wishes post-netball incident. I have come to terms with the fact that life as a netballer is probably not the life for me, but I’m eager to get back on my feet–pun intended.