What is the chain of causation between behaviour and emotion? Common sense suggests that you feel happy, and this makes you smile. However, the body of evidence is growing that the opposite is also true: you smile, making you feel happy. Read on to learn a life-changing exercise from the book Rip It Up.

Rip it up and smile

In yesterday’s post, I told you that I invited people to take a chopstick in their mouth… Why? Because this makes you smile.

And if you smile, this causes a shift in your body. So smiling has a measurable effect on your mind-body well-being.

It’s not just that emotions lead to behaviour. On the contrary: your body is a powerful tool (you have any time at hand).

The notion of behaviour causing emotion was put by the philosopher and psychologist William James (1842 – 1910) as: “If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.” I also addressed this topic in the article Change your mood – try it out!


The As If Principle

You’ve certainly heard the proverb, “Fake it until you make it.” The attitude of ‘Doing something as if you already were ‘there’ is a highly effective technique that is used in professional coaching and brief solution therapy.

I’ve used this approach while pondering if I should (aka would like to) participate in a 30-day blogging challenge by asking: “What if you knew the answer?”

Wiseman - Rip It UpIf you’re interested in this “As if principle”, I highly recommend you to read the book Rip it Up by Richard Wiseman, Professor in the Public Understanding of Psychology, at the University of Hertfordshire.

You find in it a summary and the history of behaviourist research and theory.

Wiseman’s writing is witty, entertaining, and certainly thought-provoking as he likes to challenge ‘common sense’.

The book is very practical, too; hence the title “Rip It Up” to take literally in one exercise. You’ll find many other exercises you can try out yourself, like the one further down.


The Interaction of Mind and Body

I’ve always been fascinated by the interaction of the mind and the body. If you watch your thoughts and cultivate a calm mind, this will affect your awareness of your speech and bodily actions.

I learned more about it when I studied Shiatsu and Chinese Medicine (1995 – 1998). In Chinese medicine (contrary to Western medicine), you have a body with a meridian system (a system or net of energy pathways). Your psycho-physical health/illness is the outcome of a balance/imbalance of the energy flow (Chi in Chinese or Qi in Japanese). According to these Asian views of the individual, you cannot separate emotions (and ways of thinking) from physical phenomena; they are interdependent.

Since 1995 I have integrated a daily meditation practice in my life and studied Buddhist Principles explaining the co-dependency and interaction of mental and physical processes.

Finally, I added more depth knowledge about cognitive-behavioural biases, tendencies, habit-forming practices, and change during my training as a professional coach (2007 – 2009) and onwards, mainly through self-study and applying/observing these principles when working with clients from all over the world.


Stop Thinking – Start Doing (Rip It Up)

That’s why, if you feel sad or stressed and want to feel happy, what you can do anytime is smiling!

Just. Do. It.

Even more so if you have a very critical and analytical mind. Great! Give it a try following the instructions below.

When empowering bright adults, showing them simple and swift steps to putting themselves at ease here and now is always the first thing I teach.

This understanding – and practice – is even more important if you tend to ruminate, ‘overthink’ things, get stuck in your head, listen extensively to the inner critical voice or have trouble making a decision.

You can always stop thinking, change your focus and start doing something for the better – NOW.

Once you have created habits to do that, actions to induce bigger and lasting change on the cognitive (and behavioural) level will take much less effort and may follow almost automatically…


Because sometimes, changing your body posture is much easier and much faster than changing ingrained patterns of thinking and perceiving (which are influenced and forged by habits of believing, often on an unconscious level).


Take Action Now – Exercise from Rip it up

1   Sit in front of a mirror.

2   Relax the muscles in your forehead and cheeks, and let your mouth drop slightly open (= neutral position)

3   Contract the muscles near the corners of your mouth by drawing them back towards your ears. Make the resulting smile as wide as possible, and try to ensure that the movement of the cheeks produces wrinkling around the base of your eyes. Finally, extend your eyebrow muscles slightly upward, and hold the resulting expression for about twenty seconds.

4   Let the expression drop from your face and think about how you feel.


If it doesn’t work, contact me (because you’re probably doing something wrong then or keep on doing something you’re not aware of on the cognitive level).

If it did work, congratulations, you’re one step closer to a Brilliant Life. Please share this article on your preferred social media platform using the buttons below.


This article was updated in July 2021.

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