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How to Relieve Stress by "Acting as if"

Posted by sheryl w.

“Behaving as if” is actually a popular therapeutic technique, and one of the proven stress relievers. Many therapists encourage their clients to start behaving as if the beliefs they really want to have are already true.

The law of attraction says that whatever we believe about our selves, our lives and our future is what we will get. If we want our situation and our life to change or transform, then we have to take control and start acting as if it is already happening.

Imagine that you want to be happy, but everyday you wake up thinking about how unhappy you are. You go over all the reasons that life isn’t going your way and how difficult everything is. You are really just perpetuating your unhappiness.

Now imagine that one day you woke up and pretended that life is amazing. You started thinking about all the great things you could do and how fun life is. You probably still didn’t believe any of it, but you carried on pretending.

After a while, your body might start to think…”hey, maybe we aren’t that stressed after all.” Soon the body will begin to make subtle physiological changes to match your new pretend way of thinking.

As your body feels less stressed, your mind may begin to believe your “faked” emotions.

This scenario may seem very simplistic. But is does work.

Stress is one of the greatest causes of aging and disease. But with a little make believe, you can begin to act as if you are stress free and positively dealing with anything that comes your way. Pretending may be one of the most powerful stress relievers to transform your attitude and life.

Answers (6)
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Great post Sheryl. I am a big believer in faking it to make it. If people can visualize themselves actually achieving their goals, even if it is just in in their imagination, they are a big step closer to making it happen. I use this tactic all the time and recommend it to my clients. I also insist they write it down because it makes it even more real and attainable.

I love Stephanie's idea of perhaps responding to negative emotions by being loving and grateful towards them. Also, Sheryl, I do think that sometimes "acting as if" can be useful. For example, there have been times in the past when I've just been stuck in the dark maelstrom of depression without knowing how to dig myself out. Sitting with negative feelings is important, but sometimes you can also start to wallow in them! Those were times when I forced myself to "act as if"--go out with friends, move/exercise, do something that I would normally enjoy. The great part is that "acting as if" opened a doorway to genuinely enjoying all those experiences even if it may have been hard to get into that mode at first.

It's great to see what every has to say about Acting "As If". I agree that being in a state of denial is not good, and that perhaps acting as if is not the only answer to every problem. It is simply one tool of many thousands of great stress relieving tools out there. It might work for some people more than others, and it might be better implemented in some situations more than others.

I agree of course that life is amazing, but sometimes your mind is in patterns that aren't allowing you to see just how amazing it really is. You can act as if you really know jand feel just how amazing life is, even if you that isn't your experience right now.

The key to living your life to the fullest is to find what works for you. If acting as if works for you, great, if not...that's great too!

I don't think it is necessary to "pretend" that life is amazing. Life is ALREADY amazing. Even if you are dirt poor and living in a shack, life itself is still pretty darn amazing. To me, whether or not you find life amazing depends upon your attitude about it. Of course, there are negative emotions that are natural and necessary, and I agree with Nirmala that it's bad to be in denial about them. But consider an alternative perpective - instead of pushing away negative emotions, be grateful for them. Realize how AMAZING they are. Thank them for telling you what you need to do, change, or heal in order to move forward. Then you can appreciate all the colors in your universe.
I think this can be a useful technique, but sometimes "acting as if" can be a way of running away from our problems and maintaining a state of denial about where we are at and how we got there. To me, self-interrogation and acceptance are important facets of combatting negative emotions and feelings of stress. I find sometimes that the more I "fight" the feeling (through denial or avoidance, etc.), the more I dig myself into a rut. Meditation has taught me that the simple method of sitting with uncomfortable feelings and being gentle and self-accepting can lead to tremendous breakthroughs and changes in how I feel.
This is an interesting concept. I do believe that it could work but I wonder how do I go about getting my stubborn brain to start thinking positively? Though I've come pretty far with trying to think positively, I still have a ways to go. It's tough to let go of the negatives, because in the back of my mind, it seems easier to just not expect too much out of life. That way, I don't become disappointed when things don't go my way. I find, though, that reminding myself of all the blessings I have in my life is the first step. After that, waking up thinking positive thoughts seems easier because I've already located the good things in life. Balancing between not expecting too much and expecting some good things seems to be where I'm at right now. Visualizing my happiness in order to convince my body that I'm not stressed could just be the way to go next! Thanks for this tip on the next step in the right direction.
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