The car in front of me pokes along at 20 miles per hour. I clench the steering wheel as I try to push down my road rage. The concept of “steam coming out of my ears” feels very real…
And then I suddenly, falsely, crazily, I bark out the word “JOY!” and force a grossly false smile. The smile doesn’t reach my eyes and looks more like a grimace, but I try it again: “JOY!” I croak out a laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I don’t want to laugh. I am mad! But guess what, my shoulders relax. Suddenly I realize the smile has reached my eyes. Following the poky driver in front of me no longer seems like the end of the world. My breath deepens. I relax.
By smiling, I have just tricked my brain. And it worked!
You Don’t Need Chopsticks
Psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas researched smiles, including fake ones their subjects created by holding chopsticks between their lips. They found that even fake smiles increased the subjects’ immunity, strengthened stress responses, and lowered blood pressure. Dozens of other medical studies support the connection between smiling and stress reduction. Because the brain is a sucker for a grin, it doesn’t care whether you’re smiling because you’re joyous, or because you’re just pretending.
So smiling reduces stress. That’s good news for trainers and presenters.
Smile to Prepare to Knock ‘Em Dead
I am not suggesting that trainers and presenters begin their session with a big, fake smile. However, before “going on stage”, try following these five steps:
- Find a bathroom stall. Enter, and close the door.
- Plaster a huge, ear-to-ear smile on your face while relaxing your shoulders with a big breath.
- Shake your body all over, as if you were a dog shaking off water. Keep smiling and breathing.
- Open the cubicle door while still smiling.
- Walk to where you will present. Chances are your face will settle into a genuine smile by the time you get there.
By forcing that little “smile” moment, you have boosted your immunity, energy, and dynamism. Best of all, you have lowered your stress.
Now you can be the amazing trainer or presenter you were always meant to be!