Mon, 14 Sep 2009 14:45:00 GMT

Conditioned Happiness

Ivan Pavlov is famous for his experiment where he trained dogs to salivate when they heard a bell. He did this by preceding every feeding with a bell ring. Eventually, the dogs began to associate the presence of a bell ring with the arrival of food and would start salivating even though no food was presented.

This is an extraordinary phenomena that is also present in humans. Pavlov's experiment was artificial, but we as humans have several natural associated responses. One that is especially useful is the association between smiling and happiness. The mind treats the feeling of happiness and the action of smiling as synonymous occurrences. Typically, happiness precedes smiling, however, it is not necessary that it happen in that order. When smiling happens first it can invoke a feeling of happiness without any other qualifying events.

This association can work wonders when doing things that you don't want to do or after a serious of unfortunate events. For example, when I was learning to snowboard I would always smile and laugh to myself whenever I fell. It allowed me to make it through the hard parts so that I could enjoy the fun parts.

So, smile more!