It's the holiday season. I really don't need to say anything else. There will be many uncomfortable situations this year and in the coming years. There will be that one person at your holiday party that you'd rather not talk with or the neighbor down the street that you heard fighting that come to your door. We all go through this.
The good news is that you can actually trick yourself into being happy, even during those uncomfortable moments, by practicing these 12 techniques.
Back in 1872 Charles Darwin examined to see how emotional responses influenced people's feelings. Darwin came to the conclusion that "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it." Since then, there's been no shortage of research on the powerful and positive effects that smiling has. One of the most frequent findings has been that smiling can make a person happy.
Even more interesting, it doesn't actually have to be an all-out smile, but a facial expression similar to a smile. As noted in Psychology Today, "a facial expression that closely resembles the pattern of muscles that are used to express happiness can cause you to experience a corresponding emotion." You can practice this technique "by loosely holding a clean pen, straw, or your finger with your teeth, parallel to your mouth. The facial expression created is similar to a smile--an expression of happiness--and the facial feedback effect can trigger a positive emotional response in your brain."
If you know how to fake a smile, you can fake being happy the next time you're in an uncomfortable situation.
2. Ask Questions
I find that when I ask others a question, it takes the pressure off of me and puts it on another person. Instead of just standing their miserable at a party where you don't know anyone, strike up a conversation with a stranger. Who knows. You may find some common ground and end up discussing a topic that you're passionate. If you're in a tense workplace situation, ask the parties involved separately what's going on. You may be able to get to the source of the problem and make the office a more enjoyable place to be.
When you do ask questions, try to phrase some that the answer is a more of opinion and not just a fact. Asking someone when they graduated college will elicit a one-word response. But, asking what their favorite class was could lead to a great conversation.
Here are a few good conversation starters:
- What have you been passionate about over the past year?
- What has been your favorite book that you've read?
- What advice would you give for someone... (job, school, children)?
- How have you become such an expert at ... (whatever they do)?
Whenever you're in an uncomfortable situation it's easy to get anxious, tense, and stressed out. Those are emotions that are only going to add you're already foul mood. But, taking a deep breath prior to entering any awkward situation can help you relax. When you're relaxed, you're relieving all of that stress and anxiety, which should help lift your spirits.
Harvard Health suggests that you practice slow, deep abdominal breathing. To begin practicing this, you need a quiet room and breathe in slowly through your nose. Your chest and stomach should rise as the air fills your lungs. Fully expand your abdomen and breathe slowly out of your nose.
4. Adjust Your Body Language
If you're standing in a room with your arms crossed or constantly looking down, do you think anyone is going to come over and talk to you? Probably not because you're sending out an unapproachable vibe. Instead, adjust your body language. Not only will you appear to be more approachable, you'll improve your mood.
Research has also found that those with better posture and don't slouch have greater self-esteem and better moods. Additionally, striking a power pose posing and walking with swinging arms have been found to put test subjects in a happier mood since it raises testosterone and confidence.
Go for a walk before the situation. But, if you can't, stand in a power pose (opening your shoulders, putting your hands on your hips or behind your head) or at least find a private area and do a quick fist pump.
5. Show Up Early
This may not always be the case, but showing up early to an event, for example, can help ease anxiety and stress mainly because it gives you a chance to meet everyone as they first come in. If you show up late, most of the people in attendance are already in their groups and having conversations, while you just stand staring at everyone helplessly.
Another advantage of arriving early is that it gives you a chance to figure out an escape route. For example, you could eye where the nearest bathroom or exit is so that if you need a moment to yourself so you quickly be removed from any uncomfortable situation.
6. Enjoy the Silence
How can an uncomfortable situation get any worse than when it's absolutely silent? Whether if it's the end of a story or joke that only gets a response from crickets, attempting to fill that silence with useless babble can only make matters more awkwards. Instead, enjoy the silence and take it in. As Bob Edelstein, a psychotherapist, states, "The silence, the gap between our talking, if it is valued, will allow us to digest what we just said and to discover what we want to say next as it emerges in the present moment."
7. Focus on the Positive
Instead of carrying around that negative attitude, try to look at the positive. For example, if you're dreading the office holiday party, tell yourself that it's only once a year and you've survived in the past. If you don't feel like going out to dinner with your friends, remind yourself that you haven't seen them in several months and it will be great to catch up with them.
Take a moment to reflect on the positive outcomes, as opposed to harpering on all of the negatives. You'll quickly discover that there's always something to be positive about.
8. Laugh With Others
According to Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D., "Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health." Simply put, when others are laughing, join in on the fun. Even if you don't find the story or joke all that humorous, still laugh with others. It's infectious and will improve your mood.
9. Take It Easy
When we're all worked up, we tend to ramble on excessively or talk rapidly. And, what happens? Words come out jumbled and people can't understand what you're trying to say. This is only going to make you feel even more uncomfortable. Go back and take that deep breath before speaking and slow down when conversing with others. It will help you focus on the discussion and not your current emotional state.
10. Put The Situation in Perspective
Understand that sometimes you have every right to not be the happiest. Maybe you just received a pink slip, lost a loved one, or were injured. The people around you should respect the fact that you're not in the best mood and may be downright miserable. And, you should do the same for them as well.
Just remember, you don't want to be a stick in the mud. Even if you're not at 100%, you should still make the effort to enjoy yourself the best you can. Don't ignore your misery. Find a balance.
11. Maintain Self-Confidence
Confidence "plays an important role in building healthy relationships, achieving success in your professional life, and staying motivated." When you're self-confident you can hold your head high and be happier in general. That makes faking happiness a bit easier since you're already a happy person insides.
To work on improving your confidence, you first need to work on building up you self-esteem. That can be done by telling you inner critic to stop the negatives and focus on constructive thoughts. You'll also want to take the time to by appreciating yourself, like reminding yourself what you excel at, being kind to others, surrounding yourself with positive people, and stop trying to be perfect.
12. Get Out Of Your Head
We all have insecurities about ourselves. For example, if you lost a lot of weight, you may always think that of yourself as the "fat kid." The thing is. It's all in your head. Getting wrapped in negative thoughts and over-analyzing situations isn't going to help you relax and enjoy the moment. Stop thinking and dive right in. Whether that's going out with your friends, striking up a conversation with a stranger, or mediating an office conflict.
Bonus. Set a Timer
I find that when attending a party or meeting with family I always set a time limit. This helps me mentally prepare for this uncomfortable situation by knowing that in (insert time limit) I will be able to leave and go about doing what I want to do. Whenever I do this I have a much easier time being happy and a lot less stressed as I know that it's almost over.
When you just put yourself out there, you may quickly realize that you're actually have a good time and the situation isn't as uncomfortable as you thought. What other tips would you recommend to readers?