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Controlling Anxiety and Depression

Aug 17, 2007
We are all aware that there are things we can do to increase our level of positive feelings--even if we are dealing with anxiety or depression. At any given moment, you can choose to do something that results in you feeling slightly better than you did just a few moments ago. So what keeps us from doing these things?

Here's the real problem: we're all looking for way to change our lives, not the next five minutes. So, changing your state of mind for the next 5, 10 or 15 minutes seems too trivial. It doesn't seem like anything worth bothering with. But what we forget is, life is a numbers game. That's right, it's all about the percentages!

Consider this question: how would your life be different if you could feel 1% better every single day? 1% might not seem like much, but let me tell you, feeling better works like compound interest in a bank account. It increases exponentially over time. So even feeling slightly better, multiplied by every day of your life is a huge change. Let me say that again. Feeling even slightly better every day, compounded by every single day of your life, produces a huge boost in your overall sense of well-being and happiness.

Now, if you get the feeling that I'm trying to tell you that little things matter a lot, you're absolutely right! I know you've probably heard these comments many times before and they may just seem like cheesy platitudes, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Even cheesy cliches can be profound sometimes, and this is a perfect example of that.

In fact, the exercise we're going to do today is an even better example of this. It's called the 30 second emotional shift, and here's how it works:

We're not going to try to change your life. We're not even going to try to change the way you feel today. Instead, we're going to focus with laserlike precision on a very tiny shift, only 30 seconds. Again, if this seems too trivial to bother with, let me assure you that even a 30 second shift in your emotions can and will have far-reaching results, and using this exercise daily can produce an exponential increase in your base level of happiness.

Now, I will be the first to admit that this is the simplest exercise in the world. Don't be put off by that. Keep an open mind and you will find that even this ridiculously simple exercise can greatly improve how you feel today and every day. All right, let's get started:

Have you ever seen someone with a huge ridiculous smile on their face? I'm talking about the big fake cheesy, Miss congeniality type smile. Believe it or not, we are going to emulate this behavior. It is not important that you feel like smiling, in fact, were not even going to aim for that. No, we're simply going to fake it. That's right, were going to put on a big humongous fake smile, and not because we're idiots, or because we actually feel this way. We're going to do it as an exercise, we're going to use this -fake it till you make it- behavior as a tool.

Now before we get even get started, I'd like to address the naysayers out there. You may be thinking, come on, if I felt like smiling, I wouldn't be depressed! But you see, the point of this exercise is, it doesn't matter if you feel like smiling or not. In fact, it doesn't matter how you feel, because this exercise is not based on feelings. It's based on behavior. We're simply going to engage in a certain behavior for a very short period of time. We're just going through the motions, that's all. But have a little faith, you will soon see why this is a valuable tool to increase your quality of life.

To get started, you need access to a clock or watch with a second hand. A stopwatch would be perfect, but use, what ever you've got. If you don't have a watch available, just can count on your fingers. Just remember to keep track of the time as you go. We'll begin by putting on a huge fake smile for 10 seconds. Only 10, do not be tempted to reach too far too soon. Your goal during this 10 second exercise is to achieve the biggest, cheesiest, fake-ist smile you can possibly muster. The idea is to go way over the top, smile so hard your facial muscles ache! Keep in mind that the more you put into this exercise, the more you will get out of it, so don't be afraid to really push yourself. Get into it! The results will be well worth it.

Of course, you want to do this exercise when you are completely alone, because let's face it, you're going to look a bit ridiculous. Don't worry one bit about that. Just stay focused on what is important, which is doing the exercise and giving it your all. So, whenever you're ready. Let's begin with a 10 second session. Ready? Go!

Don't forget, really show those teeth. Smile like a cheesy toothpaste commercial on steroids! And get your eyes involved in this. Dilate your eyes, make them large and sparkly. Remember, what you're going for here is to make the cheesiest, biggest fake smile you've ever seen. For extra motivation, do this exercise in front of a mirror. That's also good for a laugh.

So how did you do? Did you achieve that huge, fake, ridiculous smile? I'll bet you did. It's actually not that hard to do, especially for only 10 seconds. If for any reason you don't feel you achieved the huge fake smile for the entire 10 seconds, relax for a bit and then give it another try in a few minutes. Remember, you only need to hold this for 10 seconds. That's it. Once you have achieved that 10 seconds, we're going to bump it up a notch. This time try the same exercise for 20 seconds. Ready? Let's begin.

This time really push yourself. Open up your entire face, eyes wide, teeth showing, simply radiating cheesy happiness for 20 short seconds.

Okay, great, how did you do? If you didn't quite achieve the huge cheesy smile for the entire 20 seconds, that's no big deal, just relax for a few minutes and then try it again. Once you manage to hold this cheesy grin for 20 seconds, we're going to bump it up yet again. Same exercise, but this time were going for 30 seconds. That's all, just 30 seconds. You can do that. Of course you can, anyone can hold a cheesy grin for 30 seconds and having already practiced on smaller intervals of time, this will be a piece of cake. Ready to go? OK. Get that cheesy smile on and start watching the clock!

Now after you've attained your 30 seconds of cheesy smiling, you can just relax. Let your face go anyway it wants. Smile, frown, whatever you want to do, it's all good. Now, take a moment, just relaxing, and let's evaluate how you feel right now. Would you say that you feel slightly more up, more positive, happier than you did before the exercise began? If you're like most people, you will notice a small but definite shift in your base level of happiness after doing this exercise.

I personally began by using this exercise twice a day for 30 seconds at a time. After a few days, I progressed to doing the exercise three or four times a day, for up to one minute at a time. At this point, I'd definitely noticed that I felt differently, I felt better and my base level of happiness was on the rise. After several weeks, I got really good at this. And even tried holding the cheesy smile for 4-5 minutes at a time. I thought my face was going to freeze that way! But let me tell you, I felt great for the rest of the day, and it's results that count, so don't be afraid to try. When you begin to notice the changes in your base level of happiness, you'll be excited and motivated to do this exercise more often. And that's when you really start to notice results.

The exercise is based upon is the psychological concept of behavioralism. How it works isn't really important; what matters most is that it does work! And as you know, living a successful life is mostly based on one simple principle: doing more of what works, and less of what doesn't work.

Sometimes, the simple ideas really are the best.
About the Author
Jon Mercer is a personal development coach and the founder of www.easycalm.com, a leading anxiety resource site. Can you REALLY Eliminate Anxiety Attacks Without Medication? Watch this free video-the answer may surprise you!
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