Are You Smiling?

With the colder weather almost upon us, it’s really easy to fall into the “Doom and Gloom” trap and let our moods and emotions mirror the weather outside so we’re going to take a look at how to put a little sunshine back into our days.

Did you know that most of us have a larger vocabulary of negative emotions than positive ones? Do you find it easy to describe how you’re feeling if you’re in a bad mood or feeling down? Do you find it challenging to describe how you are feeling when you are “up” or happy?

Did you know that the things we tell ourselves about how we are feeling have a great impact on how we actually feel?

Here’s my take on the Top 10 and how to get a little more of them into your day.

But first, let’s run a quick experiment:

  • Spend 5 minutes maximum writing down all of the emotions you can think of
  • Check your list – did you get more negative ones than positive ones?
  • Read out loud all of the negative emotions and note how you feel – did you feel a little low?
  • Now read out loud all of the positive emotions and note how you feel – did you feel a little uplifted?
  • Now, just for fun, repeat all of the negative emotions again but do it with a smile on your face – did you find it difficult?
  • Try repeating all of the positive emotions without the smile – did you notice that you really had to think about it?

Hopefully, in doing the above experiment, you’ve experienced how easily your moods and emotions can be influenced by what you say to yourself. So let’s now take a look at the Top 10 Emotions to create a more positive outlook – and a little sunshine – in your day.

Gratitude is about focusing on all the good things we have in our lives rather than the things we may be lacking. Whether it’s hot running water and electricity to warm us on these cold mornings, the love of your family and friends or the kindness of a stranger who let you move ahead of them at the supermarket checkout, focusing on the things you are grateful for each day is a step towards achieving a more positive outlook.

Many self-help books and motivational texts suggest keeping a daily gratitude journal to record the things and experiences we are most grateful for and want to attract more of in our lives.

Hope is about focusing on the possibilities in our lives – the belief that things will change and improve. Hope is a motivator and catalyst for change whether it’s our mood, attitude or something physical in our lives. In order to experience hope, many people need to be uncomfortable in their present circumstances but you can still experience hope by focusing on solutions rather than problems.

As adults, how often do we say we are “Joyous” or experiencing “Joy”? If you’re not sure what joy is, watch a toddler open presents (and play with the wrapping paper) or play with a new toy. Children have a way of focusing on the playfulness or fun of the moment. Joy is about letting go and allowing the fullness of your energy and positive emotion to erupt from within. It’s the stupid big cheesy grin that makes your cheeks hurt. Joy doesn’t care who’s watching or what they may think, it’s spontaneous and uplifting.  Think back to when you last experienced joy, what happened, who was there, how did you feel? Having photos or mementos around you of joyous occasions or experiences are a great way to invite more joy into your life.

Serenity is peaceful, calm, tranquil and quiet. A feeling of wholeness and that “all is right with the world”. Finding serenity is challenging for many in today’s busy lifestyle. For me, serenity shows up during a warm-down following a run on a cold evening – yes, most often during winter. The air is still and cold but I am warm and somewhat tired from my efforts. All feels right with the world, I don’t need to rush, my problems seem less important at the moment and I am content to enjoy the fresh night air. Meditation is another way in which many people experience serenity. It doesn’t have to be a class or a period of prolonged sitting, simply taking a walk with deliberate intent to slow down, noticing what you see, hear and feel along the way and breathing deeply help achieve a meditative state.

Interest, or curiosity, drives us to learn and experience new things. Finding a new hobby, trying a new sport or physical activity, reading a different type of book or magazine – all of these new experiences can improve your sense of wellness and generate positive emotions.

Pride, tempered with appropriate humility, is a positive mood generator and intrinsic step in completing any goal. Being proud of and celebrating your achievements is often the most important, and often forgotten, step in achieving the goal. If we do not stop to celebrate or reflect upon our efforts, what is the purpose or motivation for striving to achieve our goals?

It goes without saying that having a laugh makes you feel good. Whether it’s watching a movie, listening to a story, reading a book or hanging out with friends, the act of laughing most often causes you to smile, relaxes the body and releases “feel-good” endorphins into the blood stream. Although group environments commonly encourage laughter – one person starts and it quickly becomes contagious – you don’t need to be with others to have a good laugh. Choosing not to take yourself so seriously and finding amusement in some of the silly things that we all do in our daily lives can be a cause of amusement….and with no-one else around, feel free to Laugh Out Loud!

Inspiration is most often uplifting and comes in many forms. Whether it’s looking at a sunset, a painting, a performance, a motivational fridge magnet, or hearing about a person who has achieved a goal despite adversity, inspiration often motivates us to act or change in some way. It can be a trigger to reflect on our own lives and helps us to see, hear and feel things differently. It may be that it takes our breath away, leads us to make a choice, or take action on something we’ve been procrastinating about.  It’s hard to be inspired and in a bad mood so find something to inspire you each day.

Awe shows up when we stop to appreciate just how big, grand or amazing something can be. Awe can be spine-tingling or a “goose-bumps” experience or simply a time when we go “WOW!”.  We are most often in awe of a vast landscape, travelling through space, a physical or sporting achievement that outshines the realm of our possibilities or expectations. But awe can be found in everyday things, we’re just too busy in our daily lives to stop and appreciate the natural beauty of our surroundings and the people we interact with day to day.

Love is the most powerful, frequent and sought-after positive emotion. There are many types of Love and it comes in many forms – romantic love, love of family and friends, love of nature, the outdoors, specific activities. With Love we experience many of the other 9 emotions listed above. Love is a great motivator, is inspirational, joyful, hopeful, and allows us to experience gratitude, peace and serenity.  So how do we get more love into our day? Focusing on our strengths and the value that we can, and do, add to the lives of others helps us invite more love into our lives. Of course, we all have weaknesses too and personal growth is about working on our strengths as well as our weaknesses – but our weaknesses don’t often leave us feeling good and this month is all about feeling good! Also focusing on the strengths of others and the value that they bring to our lives helps us appreciate and experience love towards those closest to us.

My challenge to you is to review each of the 10 Positive Emotions and each day for 10 consecutive days, focus on just one of them, looking for how you can bring more of that emotion into your day.

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