Studies have shown that the simple acts of smiling and laughing releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel better. In fact, laughing and smiling can even affect your physical health in positive, healing ways. Don't believe me? Go check it out for yourself.
And perhaps most compelling of all … here.
Still not convinced? (Or maybe just intrigued!) Do your own research. You'll see.
So, it's clear we aught to be doing just as much of this laughing and smiling as we possibly can on a daily – if not hourly – basis.
Start actively looking for things to smile or laugh about. Watch funny movies or shows. Talk to people who you think are funny. Set yourself up to laugh and smile just as much as you can.
If you are like I was, this might not feel natural or easy right away. You may be inclined to frown or keep a neutral expression even when you feel happy. In my case, it was due to an irrational fear that smiling, laughing, or otherwise showing pleasure might somehow bring more sorrow my way or make me look foolish somehow. If this – or something like it – is true in your case, try doing it in private for a little while. You might still feel strange, but it will get easier.
So that's part one of the assignment. Go out and find stuff to laugh about.
The most amazing thing that I learned about laughter and smiling is that it doesn't have to be sourced from genuine mirth to make a difference in your brain. Fake smiles and laughter work too!
Try this: Put a smile on your face right now. I know it's fake and that's okay, but do it up right. Pull those cheeks up; open your lips and show your teeth; squint your eyes. It's perfectly natural that you'll want to be alone for this exercise, at least the first time. (You might find it easier if you think of something that makes you smile, but this is not necessary to the exercise.) Now, as you do this, look for a slight "head change". People experience this differently, but the most common description I have heard (and experienced) is that it feels like a little chill that goes up the top of your spine and into your head. Be open to the possibility that it will feel differently to you, but look for something – how ever minor it might be – when you smile.
That little feeling is a pleasure chemical in your brain. The fake smile you have on your face right now is creating a physical and very real reaction in your brain. If you do it more, this affect will grow.
Now try it with laughter. Start with a chuckle. If it helps, think of something funny. But again, that is not necessary for this to work. Just laugh. If you feel foolish, buy into that feeling and laugh at yourself. Laugh at the sound you are making. Laugh at the silliness of it all. Laugh about the look on someone's face if they were to walk in on your right now. You'll feel it build. Let it. Laugh for as long as you can and don't worry about whether it's "genuine" or "silly" or anything else. Just do it.
When you're done, make a note of how you feel. If it's even a hair better, you are on the right track.
From this day forward, I want you to do this exercise every time you have the opportunity. Both parts. Seek out entertainment, conversations, thoughts, music, pictures – anything that will help you to smile or laugh. Second, anytime you are in a position (usually alone) to do it, create a false smile. Do that until you learn to create real smiles on a dime. That will come if you keep this up. But until then, just try the false ones. You will especially feel the results of this during times when you catch yourself frowning. Take note of how you feel and then put the fake smile on your face and see if you feel a little better. Don't look for complete and instant transformation from sorrow to ecstasy here. In my experience, the results are subtle. But they are positive results just the same and they improve with practice. So go out and practice.
You should put a big smile on your face for thirty seconds at least five times a day and laugh out loud for a minute at least once a day. This is the bare minimum. Do it more if you want to feel better faster.