Faking Happiness has a Downside

Turn that frown upside down! We’ve all heard that advice with the theory being that if you act happy, and seem to be happy, and use those smile muscles – well gosh darn it all you will be happy!

Turns out that isn’t likely and in fact can end up making you feel even more miserable. Faking it is bad for your health

The study focused on bus drivers, and found when the drivers were having  a bad day and put on a smile and an outwardly happy appearance the bad mood actually worsened. Merely pretending to be happy just made things worse.

This seems to run counter to the advice in “turn that frown upside down” and shows that merely pretending to be happy – or at least pretending not to be unhappy – doesn’t resolve the real issues. And when you think about it that way it does make sense. Putting on a mask – no matter how cheerful is still putting on  a mask. The underlying emotion and reasons for those emotions are not being addressed. Avoidance is not a solution.

The study does go on to indicate that actually trying to replace the inner mood with happy memories and recalling pleasant experiences can alleviate the unhappy mood.  While this is also an avoidance of the real cause, it is a technique that draws on the individuals inner-self to help lift the feelings of unhappiness. Basically in order to be happy one needs to find a reason to be happy!

The positive aspect of the study is that we can take control of unhappy thoughts and emotions by making a focused effort. It seems that like so many things in life happiness takes work!

My own approach to dealing with feeling down  or just feeling blah is to take a moment to be grateful for what I have and what I have experienced. We live in an amazing world – and I live in an amazing and wonderful society and I am lucky to have been born and lived in Canada. Yes there are problems and things I wish could be different – but overall it has been a pretty darn good ride.

I am amazed at how unhappy people can make themselves by focusing on their unmet “wants”.  Things like “I wish I had a better car”; or a “better computer”; or some other better “toy”. If you can read this blog post then you are way ahead of the majority of the world.

Yes I know there are people around me that really do have good reason to be unhappy. And I don’t expect them to simply think their unhappiness away. But being unhappy and wallowing in that unhappiness will not solve the problem. Nor will the bland and annoying advice to “turn that frown upside down”. Real change takes effort – what are you going to do to make yourself happy? And what are you going to do to help others move towards happiness?

There is no need to fake it when the real thing is so much better!


9 thoughts on “Faking Happiness has a Downside

  1. Pingback: 2013 in review: My Greatest Hits! | merlinspielen

  2. When we let others control our happiness, we can never attain true joy.
    Though to be fair, happiness has become more depressingly unattainable with so much consumerism propaganda from the media and TV. Our minds and bodies crave to be creative and productive; happiness is living in the present and enjoy each moment mindfully — when obstacles present themselves, we might run into opportunities. LOL, when nothing’s going right, go left!



  4. Pingback: Happiness: Living on the Street called Choice | Social Behavioral Patterns–How to Understand Culture and Behaviors

  5. Pingback: The Art of Smiling! « Dave Farmer

  6. Pingback: Why not change what is making you unhappy? | Sane SuperWoman Blog

  7. I have noticed a very real phenomenon, where if you smile at someone, that person will automatically smile back.

    So, if you’re feeling like so much warmed over camel turd, head outside, and force yourself to smile at others. That will trigger a smile reaction in them, which will trigger a (genuine) smile reaction in you.

    Doesn’t make your problems go away, but does make you feel a whole lot better about life in general.


    • I had heard that before – just in this case the study indicated that isn’t really what happened. Probably because humans are fairly good at reading “fake” and “real” smiles. The lie is written all over our faces…


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