Take Back Control — Begin with Smiling

An exercise I suggested to a friend that improved her mood, perspective, and life — It’s worth a try.


A friend recently came to me, expressing that she was “going through a rough time.” Her family was failing to provide the emotional support that she needed, and her boss was overreacting to a mistake she made with paperwork. Little by little, small things added up and she began to feel overwhelmed — it’s a scenario that is all too familiar to too many people. Soon, she began to feel as though she had “no control” over anything in her life. After allowing her to vent for some time, it became clear that at the center of her frustrations was the feeling that she didn’t have control.

So I asked her two questions.


While it might seem like a silly question at first, I think it is an important one to reaffirm and recognize within oneself a desire to have control. Not everyone actually wants to have more control because it often entails more responsibility, so it is good to ask ourselves this and be honest about our wants. If we really do want more control in our lives, then we must be prepared to do something regain it.

Rather than leave her totally scrambling to think of something, I came up with a simple excercise for her to try, a small reminder that she can take back the control that she feels has been lost — it’s something that I think we can all try, while we continue to brainstorm other small ways we can regain our sense of empowerment.

If you’re near a mirror, you might try something as small as looking at your reflection and smiling — think to yourself, or even say out loud, “I have control over when I smile.”

Even if it is a forced smile, or even if it feels weird. It’s true.

My friend took great comfort in this simple truth, and it improved her mood. If you can remember that while you go through your day — when family members are being jerks, when bosses are being bosses…you might notice you feel a little different in each situation, too.

Graphics of Manon Edwards, @chicwithcurves on Instagram, by Sadies Céng