St. Charles Herald-Guide

Turn a bad mood into a good one - by changing your expression

By Derek Clontz - December 27, 2006

You can change a bad mood into a better one by altering your expression or moving your body into a different position, says a psychiatrist.

And that's good for your health because happy people suffer fewer ailments and illnesses than people who are disgruntled, discouraged or sad, the expert explains.

"The simplest things can affect your mood in a positive way and leave you feeling better in a matter of seconds or, in a stubborn case, a few minutes," Dr. Martin Grothjahn told the Herald-Guide.

"By taking charge of your facial expressions and your body language, you can change your mood and become a happier person.

"Here's an example. Let's say you wake up feeling 'down' for no particular reason. As soon as you realize you're not at the top of your game, force yourself to smile - and keep smiling.

"At first you'll feel silly. But in short order, your mood will improve because you simply cannot stay sad with a smile on your face.

"Or, let's say you're feeling listless or weak. Don't slump. Sit up or stand up as straight as you can. You'll feel stronger and more alert. It's just that simple."

Grothjahn, of Washington, D.C., bases his observations on experience. He's been a psychiatrist for over 30 years.

Here are more of his tips for Herald-Guide readers who want to make 2007 their happiest and healthiest yet:

- If you're sleepy, open your eyes wide. You'll feel more awake and your thinking will be clearer.

- If you're disorganized and feel physically and mentally "out of synch," slow down and make slower and more deliberate movements. You'll find yourself feeling more confident and "in tune" with your surroundings and circumstances.

- Feeling tense? Nerves jangled? Close your eyes and let your arms hang limply by your sides. That will put you in a more serene state of mind, and physically, you'll instantly feel more relaxed.

The tips work equally well for stressed-out executives and over-worked housewives, Grothjahn says.

"You aren't going to change a serious and debilitating depression into 'happy time' just by putting a smile on your face - that kind of sadness requires medical attention and more sophisticated behavior modification techniques or medications," the psychiatrist told the Herald-Guide.

"But even in those cases, putting a smile on your face can help some just by getting rid of your frown."