Reducing Depression

A picture of a human brain.

Did you know that something as simple as smiling can relieve depression?

     In a study in 1989 by Robert Zajonc, individuals were asked to look in a mirror and smile whenever they were feeling negatively about something. After two minutes of smiling while staring in a mirror, their emotions reportedly changed to a happier mindset. Now, what is the psychology behind this? It is called “behavioral modification” and is something we all need to take a lesson from. When you smile, your body begins to see this as a sign of something positive. Remember that the human being is programmable; we are hardwired to tie emotions with actions. This blog entry will show you the benefits of smiling.

Behavioral Modification

     I touched upon this issue in this blog entry about distracting oneself from a negative situation. Now, let us expand upon it. Behavior modification is a concept that stems from the notion of behavioral modification. Think back to science class. When we learned about the rat touching a part of the cage that illicited a light shock, the rat would soon begin to associate the entire cage with pain. This is the same with human beings. We are all capable of altering our behavior based on actions that tie themselves to emotions or specific actions. This is behavioral modification.

     So, would you like to be happy all of the time? Try a mnemonic device. I teach these techniques in my behavioral modification classes, but for sake of brevity, let us touch upon the concept with fresh eyes. Say you want to feel happiness at any given moment. Simply begin by smiling. The body associates a smile with happiness. That is the simplest variation of behavioral modification: tricking the human mind into feeling something based on an attributed action. But what else?

Operant Conditioning

     Many people are depressed throughout the day. There is a way to deal with this: simply begin to smile when you feel happy, or tap your finger twice against your knee. Every time you feel happy, tap your finger twice. Before long, the body begins to attribute the mnemonic device in question (tapping your finger) with the feeling of happiness. It is called “instinct psychology” and dates back to the dawn of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. They originated this concept.

     So, when you feel depressed, you could do something as simple as tapping your finger once you have trained your mind and body to believe that it will cause happiness. On a neuroscientific level, the brain learns to release dopamine and serotonin – two chemicals responsible for emotion – whenever you do something that makes you happy. When you eat a piece of chocolate, as an example, dopamine is released. If you eat a piece of chocolate and tap your finger twice, before long the idea of operant conditioning takes place, and you will be able to achieve happiness!

My Course

     I offer a bi-monthly course on operant conditioning and the science behind turning a mnemonic device into an attributed emotion. I would suggest reading the section of this website that touches bases on behavioral modification, as well as checking my workshop page to see when the next course will be. There is a small fee, but you will learn how to find your mnemonic device, how to use it to achieve a specific emotion, and how to do so without conscious effort. It is an interesting concept, isn’t it?

Author: Ryan W. McClellan

I am a Life Coach and Motivational Speaker, author of several books, and Key Journalist for LOL News.

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