So it’s been a rough month full of family issues, job stress, the car broke down, you had a fight with your loved one, and now you need a root canal on top of it. Not the best frame of mind to audition for that energetic, joyous, tap dancing coffee drinker you’re supposed to portray this afternoon. How are you supposed to go into your callback embodying genuine, enviable good cheer when you’re feeling like you need that cup of coffee with a splash of kaluah just to get out of bed?
Because commercials are so short, they almost always require happy, bubbly characters so the viewer associates the product with positive feelings. Also, because it’s imperative you show respect and courtesy to the Casting Assistants, other Actors, Camera Operators, as well as the Casting Directors, you want to show up at the casting facility in a positive frame of mind.
What tools can an actor pull out of his or her sleeve at such moments? How can you smile a genuine smile—not one affixed to your face with glue requiring you to act happy?
According to CEO of Good Think Inc., Shawn Achor, who researches and teaches about positive psychology, 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world (your clothes, house, car, spouse, etc.) but by the way our brains process the world. Speaking about what most motivates people’s behavior, Achor says, “What I’ve found is that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.” But this way of thinking is scientifically unsound because every time your brain experiences a success, you generally end up changing the standard of what real success looks like. For instance, if you book a local commercial, now you have to land a national commercial; if you’re a supporting cast member in a play, now you need to get the lead role in order to feel you’ve achieved success, and therefore happiness. As there will always be a bigger goal to strive for, your brain never feels it’s sufficiently achieved success with this model, therefore making genuine happiness elusive.
But, our brains actually achieve happiness following an opposite model. Achor insists, “If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral, or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves.”
So, you can try to uplift your mood by listening to Bobby McFerrin sing Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Or, with all the recent studies on brain research, you can try some of the proven strategies to increase your optimism. By doing so, you can actually rewire your brain–allowing it to work more optimistically and more successfully. Here are five things you can do:
1. For 21 days in a row, write down three new things each day that you’re grateful for. After 21 days, your brain gets in the habit of scanning the world for what’s positive, instead of what’s negative.
2. Journaling about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it.
3. Exercising reduces tension and stress, releases mood-raising brain chemicals, and teaches your brain that your behavior matters.
4. Meditation allows your brain to focus on tasks at hand throughout the day.
5. Random acts of kindness build your own optimism. An example is to write one positive email a day praising or thanking somebody in your social support network.