My Fifth Christmas Wish For You: Smile When You're Rowing

The rowing machine is a head-to-toe lesson in technique.
If your arms bend too early on the pull, they’ll get tired too soon.
If you bend your knees too deeply on the catch, your legs will get tired too soon.
If you bend too much at the thoracic spine, your traps will get tight too soon.
And if you frown, your brain will hate it.
Smiling is an inherent response to joy. We don’t learn to smile; it’s a factory setting. It’s like wagging our tail. But smiling is more than a reflection of how we feel: smiling can actually make you happy.
Want to test it? Put a pencil in your mouth (bite the middle with the ends sticking out both sides). You’ll be activating the same muscles you would when you smile.) Within seconds, you’ll feel more productive and happier. Money-back guarantee!
Years ago, I was listening to Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us while shoveling a big pile of gravel. We were trying to fill the gaps around our septic tank, and I couldn’t afford to rent a tractor. I also needed the “labor therapy”–I was doing 17-hour days in the gym, and taking only Sundays off, so I had a ton of stress. Pink challenged his readers to count how many truly positive thoughts they had in a day, and then count how many negative thoughts they had the next day.
On the first day, I got a zero.
On the second day, I struck out.
I had literally gone 48 hours without a single positive thought. That sounds crazy, until you try it. Go ahead.
That was a huge epiphany for me. I decided to consciously count my positive and negative thoughts every day. I realized that my default response was skepticism, sarcasm or doubt. I did an inner “eye roll” far too often. I spent too much time thinking about other people’s negative traits, as if my relationships were a race and I could win by slashing their tires.
The first step to being happy is to stop being unhappy. And that’s not a one-time decision: it’s a daily workout. It’s exhausting. You’ll be sore the first time, and probably bad at it. Counting happiness reps will help.
When you’re doing a tough job, find a way to smile. I don’t mean, “grin and bear it”. I mean, bite a pencil until you actually DO feel like smiling. Then run these thoughts through your head:
When you’re 10% done – “Would I prefer to start over?”
When you’re 50% done – “I could do that again”
When you’re 80% done – “I remember when I was 20% done”
When you’re done – “I’m glad I did that. I’m going to write that down.”
Count your reps. Note what actions change your thoughts. Here’s a shortcut:
Count your happy thoughts as if they were workout “reps”.
Smiling makes you happy.
When you’re really stressed, send ten people a “thank you” message.
And when you’re REALLY mad, go do someone a favor.