12 Rules for Life

Smile, it’s good for you

Have you ever been on the train home and you see someone who looks infuriated for no apparent reason? This seems to be an everyday encounter for many, accidentally bump into them or make life just that little bit harder for them and prepare yourself to receive the biggest scowl of a lifetime.

I get it, I don’t know exactly what’s going on in their lives. They could have just suffered the death of a loved one, they could have just been fired or have to go home to an empty plate because they can’t afford to eat that night. Of course there are some extremities that warrant being sad or in a bad mood, as I have been in many before. However I also believe that it is completely viable to be able to begin to smile and be happy once again, if you just allow yourself to.

I have been reading a lot of Jordan B. Peterson’s book, ‘12 Rules for Life’. This is by far the most insightful book that I have read, whether it be because I was already a fan of Peterson’s work prior to reading, or because the topics that he covers are all too true of today’s society.

A point that Peterson touches on whilst explaining his first rule of life — Stand up straight with your shoulders back, is that body language is arguably the most quintessential way to improving mental health without doing much. Peterson compares human society with that of lobsters and the way that they interact with one another in terms of confrontation. I won’t bore you with all the details but the point that is made throughout the chapter is that when people — or lobsters for that matter, are victorious in whatever it may be, their brain will produce more serotonin which will help you with everyday social interaction, appetite, sleep and memory. If your brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin, this will make you less happy, more anxious and sad, and therefore more likely to back down when you should stand up for yourself. From there you will be more likely to abuse substances such as Cocaine and Alcohol, which will release serotonin, giving the user a false sense of victory and confidence, up until the effects ware off and you are back at the same serotonin lacking state as before.

 
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As I mentioned before, alterations in body language can create positive feedback loops which are a sure way of producing more and more serotonin. One way to do this is to simply smile, that’s it. If you go around all day frowning and looking sad, then you will feel sad and defeated. However if you simply move your facial muscles into a position that looks happy to observers, this will not only improve their social interactions with you as they won’t be ‘avoiding the angry looking person’ but will also make you feel happier, ultimately producing more serotonin, boosting your ability to interact with people, and live a much healthier lifestyle, then producing more serotonin. There you have it, a positive feedback loop.

People, like lobsters, size each other up. If your posture looks defeated and beat, then you will be treated by others as such. If you simply straighten up with your shoulders back and your head up then you will be treated and looked at differently by almost everyone around you.

When children are sad, we try to cheer them up by making them laugh and smile. There is no reason why this same principle can’t work on you too. Smile, it’s good for you.

I am going to leave you with a quote from the amazing Barney Stinson. 

 ”When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead” 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. It really means a lot to me.

As always, peace out and love life. 

Pat