Control Emotions by Pretending

Our emotional state influences us a lot more than we might like. I think as most of us know, if we are happy and motivated we get a lot more done than if we are bored, lazy or depressed. If we are confident and secure we can often make better decisions then when we are controlled by fear or nervousness.

One of the best ways to change our emotional state is to pretend we already feel the way we want to feel. So if you are feeling bored or unmotivated, simply pretend that you are incredibly driven and really motivated to get going. If you are feeling unhappy, then just pretend you are happy and it will start to change.

A study was conducted where there were two sets of participants. The first set of participants was asked to relive a particularly stressful situation. The other set was asked to simply make a facial expression that would display stress. Amazingly, both groups showed the same changes in body temperature and heart rate, which indicated emotional response.

This shows us that our emotions can actually be influenced and even completely changed just by changing our facial expressions. So, if you want to feel better, just start laughing and smiling. Try it for a minute, right now.

I’m sure you noticed, as I did, that you felt a bit happier and more excited just by smiling and laughing. This works on a small scale for happiness, but this tendency for our emotions to be controlled by our physiology and actions extends even further. By pretending like we are confident, motivated or happy, we can literally create those emotions within us.

A lousy emotional state does not need to be long lasting. While using a technique such as this cannot solve your problems, it can give you the emotional motivation and supportive mindset so you can find those solutions.

A key to this technique working is you have to be willing to feel a little silly at first. Smiling and laughing when we feel lousy or walking around with our head up when we feel nervous often feels awkward at first. However, if you can stick with it, in a short time your emotions will start to adjust to the physiology you are displaying.

This technique of pretending can be extended to more than just emotional control. If you’ve been having trouble motivating yourself to start working on a task or chore, simply start doing it. Once you start doing it, use this technique to put yourself into a state of confidence, ease or happiness. Do this and you will find it is far easier to work on a task that you normally find boring or stressful.

Once you have aligned your physiology with how you want to feel, the next step is to align all of your actions with how you want to feel. If you lack confidence in a certain situation, once you have adopted a physiology that you associate with feeling confident, then make sure all of the actions you take are actions you would associate with that feeling of confidence.

If you are about to start a new goal or project, once you have put your physiology into a state of focus and motivation begin taking the immediate actions you would if you were in that state. Begin working on the project immediately and take steps towards it. Even if you aren’t quite sure what to do, changing your physiology and then your actions will rapidly create the emotional state you need internally.

One of the worst parts about a bad emotional state, is it changes how we make decisions. When we are feeling lazy, depressed or fearful, it is easy to believe that our emotions are the result of good rational judgement. Unfortunately we often realize how wrong we are once the emotional state passes.

In situations like that, it is usually best to make changing our state to be more positive should be our first priority. Whenever we are feeling depressed, angry or lazy, changing our state to a more neutral area will give us greater access to our problem solving skills. As long as we are in that bad emotional state, it is hard to solve the problems that got us there in the first place.

Realizing that our internal emotions, motivation, courage, happiness, are completely under our control is the start of achieving that control. As long as you believe that something good must happen in order for you to start feeling happy, it will be impossible for you to change your state. As long as you believe that you need some outside stimulus to become motivated about a goal or project, it will be very hard to create that motivation.

So, if you are having trouble controlling a particular emotion, start by changing your physiology. If you want to be happy, start smiling and laughing. If you want to be motivated stand or sit up straight and begin moving faster. Changing your physiology is the first step.

After you’ve changed your physiology, start changing your actions immediately. If you want to feel motivated, start working on your goal or project immediately. By changing your actions you can create a longer lasting emotional change that can’t be created just by changing your physiology.

While negative emotions are far more likely to cripple us, it is possible to get into such a positive state that we start ignoring our problems. In those situations you are just as disabled to taking effective action as you are when you are in a really negative emotional state. Try to use this technique to bring yourself to a positive, yet manageable state. Once you get to this state, begin focusing immediately on solutions for your problem at hand.

The key to knowing whether you are at the correct balance of positivity to solve your problem is if you are taking effective action to solve it. If you aren’t taking action, then you need to change your state so that you will. While too much positivity can be dangerous, the risks of that happening are far less then a crippling negative state.

Controlling our emotions can sometimes be a difficult process. By pretending, first in our physiology then in our actions, we can gain a lot more of that control.

  • Monika

    Oh I think this artical is just wonderful. I have a presentation tomorrow about EQ and how to control emotions and make changes in your life by using emotions. I’m totally sure that I can do my presentation succefully now. Thanks to who ever wrote this artical

  • Scott Young

    Thanks Monika, I wrote the article several months ago. Good luck on your presentation.

  • Mayank

    I was always doing the same things to control my emotions but i never knew i was doing it. Thank You very much.
    Now I know that i am on the right track to making my life a more stable place free of huge emotional changes(or should i call them Tsunamis)

    Have you written more good stuff on this topic or some related topic please mail me.

    Thank You once again Scott.

    I also have a question that how diffrent music types (like Linkin Park,DJ Tiesto,Eminem,Enigma etc) effect the emotional state and which type of music is best for improving ur control over ur mind set.

  • Scott Young

    Thanks for the comment Mayank. Different music tends to produce different emotions, but that’s just a temporary external stimulus. Listen to the music you like. If you want to feel upbeat, listen to upbeat music, but I don’t think it is going to have an overwhelming long-term effect either way.

  • Perfect Johnny

    Great article, scott. Hmmmm, you’ve got me wondering – have you studied NLP or any PUA writings? I’ve read similar themes in both of these topics, body language triggering emotional states. Anyway, if you haven’t explored these you might consider it. This is all new to me, but I’m sold. Keep up the good work!

  • Scott Young

    Perfect Johnny,

    Most self-help blends into each other.

  • davina


    You say above that a study was conducted… ‘A study was conducted where there were two sets of participants. The first set of participants was asked to relive a particularly stressful situation.’

    Did you conduct the study yourself? if not do you know who did this?

    Thanks, Davina

  • Scott Young


    This article was written before I made a better effort to link to my sources, so I apologize. I honestly can’t tell you exactly where the study was from, other than being from a book I had read years before.


  • shreevidya

    as it is said ‘Laugh in the face of death’, scott has really pointed the most common and simple way to scare away stress(but unfortunately most of us are relying on medicines for doing so. they donot believe that the power is within them). let us start this by smiling:)

  • Elina McGill

    Fake it until you make it. Act as if. Your emotions are guide posts to tell you whether you are on the right path or not. The good news is that you have the power to change your emotions. You have the power to choose to feel good or bad, stressed or calm. It really is all up to you and how you want to feel in that current state.