The Happiness Hat will hurt you until you smile

Smile, dammit:

This is not meant to be taken seriously – this is art. Or social commentary. Or both. The Happiness Hat was created by Lauren MacCarthy, who calls it:

A wearable conditioning device that detects if you’re smiling and provides pain feedback if you’re not. Frowning creates intense pain but a full smile leaves you pain free! The first in a series of Tools for Improved Social Inter-Acting.

To me, this is a great commentary to the pressure to be happy that exists in society today. There seems to be a sense that “if you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you.” Ironically, this makes people less happy.

Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the same phenomenon in her new book “Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America“.

Here she is on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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What we need to remember is, that unhappiness is a part of life – including work life. No workplace is perfect. No job is without problems. And no one is happy every moment of every work day. And that’s as it should be.

If we expect to be happy all the time at work we are bound to be disappointed. If we consistently marginalize and criticize people who are unhappy at work, we lose some very valuable voices of reason and realism in the workplace.

When your circumstances are bad, there is nothing wrong with being unhappy; it is only natural. And trying to force people to be happy only makes them less happy.

So let’s give unhappiness it’s central place in the workplace – as a perfectly natural, even helpful, state of mind. And that, ironically, will lead to more happiness at work!

Your take

Have you ever felt pressured to be happy at work when you weren’t? What did that do to you? What constructive role do you see unhappiness play at work? Please write a comment, I’d love to hear your take.

14 thoughts on “The Happiness Hat will hurt you until you smile”

  1. When I am happy I don’t always have a grin from ear to ear on my face. Certain people interpret this as being in a bad mood – and if they keep going on about you being in a bad mood … well they get their wish.

  2. I know exactly what Sam is saying. I am usually running around with a big smile and being cheerful. However, there are days when I am very focused, still cheerful inside but my face isn’t smiling, it’s focused. People ask me what’s wrong, or if I’m in a bad mood, or “Smile”. I just tell them, I’m on the computer working on a report, you want me to sit here smiling at my computer? LOL. Sometimes I think it’s just a way to start conversation from them.

  3. I really hate it when people say “Smile!” at work, even though they haven’t got a clue nor do they actually care, how your day is actually going or what you’re up against! If they really did care how you feel or what’s going on, that would most certainly be different.

    The ones that really do brighten your day at work are those genuinely caring types, who would give you a hand, or a word of sympathy, make a bit of pleasant conversation, or just listen for a minute with interest to how you’re really doing! That’s what makes people happier, Real Caring!

  4. Very important point you made in this post!!

    I think one of the problems in simply saying ‘Be Happy!’, is in the way it is said. Saying just that without ‘Real Caring’ like Roxie says, makes it insensitive and therefore more irritating. And people who show you Real Care do not need to say ‘Be Happy!’ ever. They spread happiness without saying it!

    The phrase ‘Be Happy’ itself gives us a very important clue about what it is, which we often miss. We ‘be’ happy we never ‘do it’ like it were some work. So, it is not like we have a switch that can be turned on and off! And sometimes the pain that precedes it is important to let us know that there maybe something we need to sort out before we feel that bliss. And when we are happy it does not mean we would be grinning from ear to ear either, like Sam said! :)

    I love this blog! :)

  5. I haven’t felt pressured by management (thankfully, they just briefly paid lip service to Fish! and then abandoned it, leaving up the posters). But there’s always a “Little Mary Sunshine” in every workplace who wants to tell you “it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.” My standard response: “How many muscles does it take to mind your own goddamned business?”

  6. I agree that the saying “Be Happy” is just inviting people to pave over their feelings, stuff them in a closet, or what have you. That’s not terribly constructive… feelings are there to be felt. On the other hand, wallowing in your feelings isn’t terribly helpful either… best to feel them for what they are, and move on. Wallowing is a form of addiction, and I would argue that this is what our friend Barbara from the Daily Show interview is doing.

  7. Being happy is for most a simple two worded phrase that has no sense since it became so over-used that it lost its basic meaning. Being is the essential part of it, recognizing the illusions in the mind and eliminating the fake, which is that. From that on focusing on the present moment which is so simple will lead to a simple feeling of good, the basic feeling we are created to feel, the celebration of joy. I agree with Samantha as well: “feelings are there to be felt.” and “best to feel them for what they are” the true feelings are there, always when u let go of your fake mind and give in for your present moment…the only time you’re alive actually….

  8. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8339647.stm

    Feeling grumpy is good for you

    In a bad mood? Don’t worry – according to research, it’s good for you.

    An Australian psychology expert who has been studying emotions has found being grumpy makes us think more clearly.

    In contrast to those annoying happy types, miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible, his experiments showed.

    While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking, Professor Joe Forgas told Australian Science Magazine.

    ‘Eeyore days’

    The University of New South Wales researcher says a grumpy person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain “promotes information processing strategies”. Negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world
    Professor Joe Forgas

    He asked volunteers to watch different films and dwell on positive or negative events in their life, designed to put them in either a good or bad mood.

    Next he asked them to take part in a series of tasks, including judging the truth of urban myths and providing eyewitness accounts of events.

    Those in a bad mood outperformed those who were jolly – they made fewer mistakes and were better communicators.

    Professor Forgas said: “Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world.”

    The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a “mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style”.

    His earlier work shows the weather has a similar impact on us – wet, dreary days sharpened memory, while bright sunny spells make people forgetful.

  9. this is a GREAT post! thanks for sending the message that it is NATURAL to have feelings of unhappiness – it’s just part of the Human Experience and the sooner you move through those feelings the sooner they will be over. I saw the interview the night it aired and i love what Ms. Eherenreich had to say about the relentless culture of what a friend of mine calls “happy light up the a**” – so many people in the U.S. try to gloss over the bad stuff and then it doesn’t get addressed and it only festers and gets worse =-(

    you know sometimes being unhappy at work can actually MOTIVATE you to find a job where your skills and talents fit and you will be valued for your contributions – that’s what i’m learning! =-)

    your site is SO awesome – thanks for creating it!!

  10. I am Happy at my work when I start loving that work. Every moment makes me happier as far as I am getting expected results out of it. The happiness level decreases from the happiness meter when I start encountering with many ideas striking me, while I am at work. Because the quality of work decreases and you won’t get expected results.
    Writing down these ideas and focusing stringently on my work makes me to love my work again.

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