Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Want to Change Your Mood? Give Voice to Your Smile!

How often have you casually asked someone, "How are you doing?", and then heard them say, "Fine, doing great" in a flat low-energy voice. You know immediately how they really feel.

We can often tell where someone is emotionally based only on their voice alone. But what about our own voice? Can we self-detect emotional cues as we speak?

Emotional Voice Self-Awareness

In a fascinating study published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences", researchers had participants read a story while wearing earphones connected to an electronic device that manipulated each reader's voice. The voice was altered to sound happier, sadder, or fearful, as the story progressed. Participants heard their own altered voice through the earphones as they read aloud. 

Researchers tracked the emotional states of participants as they read the story. The vast majority of subjects never consciously detected that their voices were manipulated, but they did notice their emotional states change as they read the story. The story content was neutral. 

An interesting take-away for self-awareness is we are usually not conscious of the role our own voice plays in influencing emotional states. The good news is we can choose to listen with a mindfully tuned ear and change our voice to help change our emotions and mood.

Give Voice to Your Smile!

At age 16 I sold newspaper subscriptions for the "New York Times" by phone. The advice I received from my then manager is the advice that has been given to countless telemarketers for decades: smile!

When you smile - even if you don't feel like smiling - your emotions come along for the ride. People can "hear" a smile. You sound different because you are different. Your brain changes, your physiology changes, and your voice changes to reflect the "happier you". 

How to Develop the Smiling Voice Habit

Try this: Notice how you feel right now. Do a quick body scan and get a sense of your energy level and overall mood. 

After assessing your current energy level and mood, sit up in a dignified posture, look straight out with a soft focus as if looking at a sunset in the distance. Next, place a pencil or pen between your upper and lower teeth. This creates an automatic smile as you gently hold the pencil or pen in place for about 90-seconds. 

After removing the pencil or pen, notice how you feel. Do another quick body scan and notice what's changed. Do you feel more energized, happier, more centered?

Allow yourself to really feel the positive energy and sensations as you say to yourself, "smiling voice". Repeat "smiling voice" two more times as you smile". After doing this just a few times, you will find it easy to create this positive emotional state simply by saying, "smiling voice". Use this "smiling voice" anchor cue before making calls, talking with others, or anytime you want a quick emotional boost.

Remember these lyrics in the Frank Sinatra song years ago?

"When you're smiln, when you're smilin, the whole world smiles with you..."

Great lyrics and sound advice.

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*Study citation: Covert digital manipulation of vocal emotion alter speakers' emotional states in a congruent direction, Jean-Julien Aucouturier,PNASDOI: 10.1073/pnas.1506552113 

Stephen Carter
Stress Solutions, LLC

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