I noticed something in traffic this morning, as my car crept past the faces staring ahead in the oncoming lane: so many somber faces; grumpy faces; some near-homicidal faces. There weren’t many faces that I’d venture a conversation with, if given the chance. It occurred to me: we take ourselves far too seriously most times.
We underestimate the power that our demeanour holds. It literally has the power to attract, or repel.
But beside the effect that our demeanour has on others, it also has the potential to affect how our day will go; ultimately, as the days mesh together, how our lives will go. One bad day could turn into a week. Another bad week could turn into a perpetually bad mood. A consistently bad mood turns to a bad attitude. A bad attitude turns to bitterness, and before you know it, you’re a thousand years older than you really are, and you’re “that person” that no one wants to hang out with.
It all starts somewhere, and it could be today, when you’re feeling sulky and refuse to smile at the supermarket cashier. There’s only one cure for a negative demeanour, and that is this: You gotta lighten up.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn here, but as it so happens, I’ve become something of an expert at lightening up, being the mother of a toddler. Let me give you four (of many) little ideas…
Which is exactly what I was doing this morning, when I noticed how miserable everyone else on the road was. I had a compilation of Elvis Presley and Beach Boys (don’t ask) blaring from my stereo, and I was belting it out with gusto and animation. Its been known for a few years now that singing has a chemical affect on the human brain, as was once explored by TIME in August 2013.
According to the study, singing along sets off a release of endorphins – happy hormones that spread the feeling of overall well-being and pleasure throughout your body and psyche. Over and above that, the brain is also treated to a dose of oxytocin while singing, which is known to relieve anxiety and stress.
2. Impersonate your favourite cartoon character
Sounds silly, because it is. Whether you are 5 years old, 20 years old, or 55 years old, never let the child inside of you die. That’s a sure-fire way to grow old fast. Its been said for decades that “Laughter is the best medicine”, because it really is. So much so, that you can now hire laughing coaches who run workshops that help people learn how to laugh more and reap the health and mental benefits of just being silly.
Don’t mind if I toot my own horn again, but I do a wicked King Julian impersonation.
Whether it be a dance class, or in your kitchen, getting jiggy on the dance floor has tremendous effect on the psyche. For one, listening to music involves the entire brain, and is believed to assist with pain relief, high blood pressure, chronic headaches and migraines, post-partum depression, and other conditions.
Add to that the fact that you are moving your body in a fun form of exercise – by doing so, you’re releasing more of those cheerful endorphins into your system. Dancing has even been linked to giving Parkinson’s patients relief, as it helps with muscle control and alleviating anxiety.
4. Hug someone
Ok, I am just a big mushie girl when it comes to hugging, but it’s science: hugging is good for you! A whole hormonal miracle happens inside when receiving a hug – the body releases oxytocin, and cortisol levels drop significantly. Cortisol is a stress-hormone; it serves its purpose in fight-or-flight situations, but with modern-day stress, we are living with it as a permanent condition in our bodies. Over long periods of time, cortisol can do serious damage to certain areas of the brain.
It’s speculated that each person would do well to give / receive 8 hugs per day – a far cry from what many of us are actually receiving, which is sad, but easy to fix.
We really have no excuse for wearing a sour face. Life is hard, but we have also been given the resources to cope with hardship, and if we’re willing to put a little effort into it, we really can find joy in the smallest things. From music to hugs to dancing.
And of course, King Julian.