Lots of videos in today’s post – click through to see them if they don’t show up in your reader or email! Trust me, you want to see these!
I dare you to watch this and not laugh once.
Try this experiment: Find a funny YouTube video. But DON’T watch it yet! I recommend this one of video submissions for Ellen’s Dance Dare: (Yes it’s totally safe for work)
Now, hold a pencil between your teeth. Yes, I know that’s weird. Just do it. Do it! Doooo iiit! Now, hit play and watch the video. Keep the pencil clenched between your teeth the whole time! On a scale of 1 to 10 rate how funny you thought it was. Enter your response here: ___ (Psych! I have no idea how to code survey boxes. You’ll have to pretend.)
Next, find a second funny video. (But don’t watch it yet!) Feel free to use this h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s continuation of Ellen’s Dance Dare:
Now take that same slimy pencil and this time hold it between your lips and hit play. Keep the pencil in the whole time you’re watching. Now rate the second video on a scale of 1 to 10 of how funny you found it. Enter your score here: ___ (Just write on your screen. It’s okay.)
Chances are you probably found the first video funnier than the second. (Or if you don’t think people sneaking up behind unsuspecting strangers and dancing is funny then you want to throw your drool-y pencil at me.) The reason for this, according to happiness researchers, is that holding the pencil between your teeth forces you to engage your smile muscles while holding the pencil between your lips engages your frown muscles. And – here’s today’s super important lesson – if you act in an emotional way, your body will try and fit your situation to match your feelings. Ergo, if you’re smiling then the video must be funny. This is huge because most of us focus on how this works the opposite way (the video is funny so that’s why I’m smiling). Most people think that they are reacting to a situation when in actuality we are reacting to our own interpretation of the situation. Deep, I know.
Real-world example: Today I was driving home from a failed park expedition with my kids (first day of “spring” “break” and all they’ve done is bicker) and I was stressed out, irritated and cranky. (It also didn’t help that there were gun shots while we were at the park and the police came. No, I didn’t see anything. Which means the cops missed their opportunity to use my stellar sleuthing skills that I have garnered from watching countless hours of Law & Order.) But remembering this happiness lesson, I tried forcing myself to smile. The kids screamed louder. One of them puked (oh yes he did). Another threw a water bottle at me. Truly I had nothing in that moment to be happy about.
And yet before I knew it I was giggling. As soon as I’d started smiling I remembered a hilarious and completely inappropriate conversation I’d had at the gym this morning where one unnamed Gym Buddy gave one of the funniest object lessons of a sex act I have ever seen. (Not that I’ve seen a lot. Wow, this just keeps getting worse.) And it came up during a discussion of the recipe she was trying for dinner. I can’t explain it here. But I laughed so hard I cried. My kids thought I had lost my mind. But in reality my mind is a genius – it sensed me smiling and then searched around for a reason for why I might be happy. (… and of course came up with a lewd joke. I’m a 13-year-old boy, we’ve covered this.) It totally worked!!
Now think about how many times you’ve done the opposite. You probably didn’t even realize you were doing it but when confronted with an ambiguous situation, most of us have default thoughts we go back to. Someone doesn’t say hi to me? I automatically think they don’t like me or are mad at me or whatever. Someone cuts me off in traffic? They’re jerks or bad drivers. Someone compliments my new haircut? They must think I looked ugly before. And the more times this happens the more quickly those same negative thoughts spring up until they’re so natural we think they’re true whether or not they really are.
All of which is not to invalidate your emotions but rather get you to think about the fact that while we can’t always choose the situations we’re in, we have more control over our feelings about them then we think! Feeling bad doesn’t necessarily mean the situation is bad and being in a bad situation doesn’t necessarily mean we have to keep feeling bad about it! I love it when research makes me happy! Or maybe it’s just because I forgot to take the pencil out of my teeth…
Anyone else ever noticed this phenomenon? What do you do to get yourself out of a bad mood? Anyone ever tried a dance dare? This weekend my husband and I polka-ed around a bunch of students at the University. Unfortunately the polka is as noisy as it is dorky so I’m pretty sure they saw us and were just politely averting their eyes but it was still hilarious!