As-If Principle

As-If Principle

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Mar 03, 2023 • 3 min read
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In the last lesson, we learned that our thoughts and feelings influence each other. We can increase our happiness by simply adjusting one and allowing the other to follow. We call this technique reframing. However, thoughts and feelings are not the only components in this constant interplay. There is also behavior.

Most of the time, our behavior reflects our emotional state. For example, when we feel sad, we usually look sad—we slump forward, take shorter steps, keep our arms close, and drop the corners of our mouths. Surprisingly, scientists have revealed that this process also works in the other direction.

Sometimes, your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes, your smile can be the source of your joy.

— Thich Nhat Hanh
Rupert's smile has become the source of his joy.

When we assume a joyful posture, despite feeling sad, our thoughts and feelings shift away from sadness toward joy. Such an approach overturns conventional thinking and provides the easiest way to take control of our emotions and improve our well-being. The corresponding technique is known as the "As-If" Principle.

The As-If Principle helps you attain an emotional quality by acting as if you already had it.

This technique is helpful, especially when reframing thoughts and feelings is challenging. However, the impact will be even stronger if we can adjust either of them in addition to altering our behavior.

Action steps

Here is how you can reach your desired emotional state using the As-If Principle:

  1. Choose a behavior that is associated with the emotions you desire. How would you behave if you already had it? How would you walk and speak? What would be your facial expression? How would you dress?
  2. Act as if you already were that kind of person. When you behave the way you want to feel and think, you will conclude that you already are that person and experience the corresponding emotions.
  3. Focus on changing your behavior instead of your thoughts and feelings. Your behavior will lead to your desired emotional state, reinforcing the loop.
Fake it before you feel it.
Rupert is acting confident in order to feel confident.

In the context of this course, we can use this technique to increase our happiness. If you want to feel happier, start behaving as if you are having a good time. This is far quicker and more effective than cheering yourself up by thinking happy thoughts.

Feelings of happiness

You can adjust your posture, walk, and facial expression to feel happier:

  • Happy posture. Stand tall and relaxed. Lift your head, keeping your chin slightly tucked to lengthen your spine. Roll your shoulders up, back, and then down.
  • Happy walk. Take long strides. Walk with a bounce as if you have springs in your shoes. Let your arms swing freely.
  • Happy face. Relax your forehead and cheek muscles. Put on a broad but natural-looking smile.

Research shows that singing significantly raises happiness levels, whereas listening to music does not. Talent is optional. Even if you are a bathroom singer, you can sing to feel happier.

Alternative: Yoga

We can practice this technique formally. In yoga, different postures evoke different positive feelings. Picture people practicing yoga not because they are calm but because they are nuts and wish to be calm. By doing the poses, yogis experience serenity.

Rupert is practicing yoga to promote feelings of calmness.

As they say, wisdom lies in doing. So, act as if you already are the happy person you want to become. Lift your head, smile, put a spring in your step, and do whatever a happy person would do.

Now or never

For the next two weeks, practice a happy posture, happy walk, or happy face for five minutes a day. Create a daily reminder.