A Psychological Trick to Be More Energized

Did you ever hear someone say: “Just smile and you’ll feel happier”?

Well, this is really not just a saying. The James-Lange theory of emotion was the first that states exactly this. And the potential of this fact is not only to make us feel happy or something… We can actually use this to our advantage in order to be more energized - even if we’re tired or stressed out that day. 


The research behind this technique

The psychological view of William James (and Carl Lange) was the following: You do not only translate emotions into physical reactions, but you also translate physical reactions into emotions.

They used the example of a man seeing a bear: When the man sees the bear, he runs away.

The effects of running are things like rapid breathing, increased heartbeat etc. Those physical changes are translated from the minds perception of them into fear.

This means, you may feel fear because you run, and not run because you feel fear.

William James*  

Same with smiling for example: you are conscious that you smile and then feel happy because of it.

And James & Lange weren’t the only ones who stated this. James Laird of Clark University conducted a study proving exactly that.

He applied fake electrodes to the faces of participants, telling them to “manipulate” them by forcing a smile or a frown.

After asking them how they felt, he found that those who forced a smile felt happy and those who frowned felt bad.

It could even be proved that your behavior has effects on your emotions in terms of hormone release: Dana Carney led a study where she split the volunteers in two groups.

One group was placed in a power pose, seated at desks, looking up and folding their hands behind their neck.

The other had to place their feet on the floor looking to the ground with their hands on their laps.

The group in the power pose had much higher testosterone rates than the group in the inferior pose.

That means, just their position led to a hormone release: the dominant position led to a release of testosterone which made the people in that pose feel more confident.

So again: the behavior resulted in a hormone release.

This means, we can even change our hormone environment, just by acting a certain way. So, how can we now use this to our advantage in terms of becoming more energized or releasing stress?

Generate energy

First, what we have to know here is: we can only have one feeling or state of mind at a time.

You cannot be sad and happy at the same time: it’s one or another. Same with things like feeling tired or overwhelmed: You cannot be tired and alert at the same time and you cannot feel overwhelmed and relaxed at the same time.

This means, the goal is to get in the state we want (e.g. feeling alert) so that our original state (e.g. being tired) disappears.

So, in order to feel energized, we have to act as if we’re energized. There are many ways to do this:

Keep an upright posture

Ask yourself frankly: How’s your posture?

Especially when we’re sitting (what many of us do most of the day) we have a hunched-over posture. This is a posture of low energy, like we can’t hold ourselves upright.

This suggests your mind that you have low energy and the hormonal response will actually decrease your energy. So, no matter how your conditions are, if you sit hunched over, you’ll have lower energy.

A physical side effect of sitting hunched over is that your thorax presses slightly on your lungs. That makes it harder for you to breathe properly and as an effect, you have worse oxygen supply.

Finally, your brain and your overall body works worse with worse oxygen supply.   

Well, so if you sit, sit upright! This suggests you can hold yourself upright as well as being alert and having an overview. Your mind will interpret you are energetic and alert and will do the rest for you. Plus, your brain gets enough oxygen.

Keep your eyes wide open and flex your muscles

Keeping your eyes wide open is a sign that you’re alert and awake. Especially when we’re a little tired, our eyes tend to close. Keep them wide open in order to suggest that you’re awake.

Flexing your muscles is also a sign of energy. So, stand up once in a while, move around a little bit and flex your muscles. You’ll be rewarded with more energy.

Breathe deeply

Think about this: What do you do before, while, or shortly after an activity that requires much energy (a sprint for example)?

Exactly, you breathe deeply. Do this now and then in your daily life: you’ll not only have more oxygen in your body, but also an energy boost from your minds perception of the deep breathing.


Now it’s again time to implement that into your daily life. Of course, this “As-If-technique” does not only work for “generating” energy.

You can apply this for everything you want. Want to release some stress? Get into a relaxed position or slow down a little in your movements.

For every instance where you want to use this, just imagine how you behave when you have your desired state of mind or feeling – and then adopt this behavior: the state of mind will follow.

About the Author

Maurice Leibinn is the creator of Productive Energy Management – a method that helps people get a maximum amount of results in a minimum of time while sustaining their energy and avoiding any kind of overwhelm.
He is a productivity Coach serving ​serving ​overworked entrepreneurs and​ professionalsRead more...


*Picture Source: Von Notman Studios (photographer) - [1]MS Am 1092 (1185), Series II, 23, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Gemeinfrei, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16250941

The Psychology Book - Big Ideas