Faking happiness is bad for you

A lot of self-help advice advocates faking happiness, in order to become happy. If you’re in a bad mood, you should pretend to be happy, and that will make you happier for real. You should force a smile, force yourself to focus on the positive, chat with others in a friendly way or similar.

It’s often called “fake it till you make it”.

I honestly don’t believe that’s how it works, and now there’s some evidence to support this view:

…scientists tracked a group of bus drivers for two weeks, focusing on them because their jobs require frequent, and generally courteous, interactions with many people.

The scientists examined what happened when the drivers engaged in fake smiling, known as “surface acting”…

After following the drivers closely, the researchers found that on days when the smiles were forced, the subjects’ moods deteriorated and they tended to withdraw from work. Trying to suppress negative thoughts, it turns out, may have made those thoughts even more persistent.

So what does work? Finding actual (you might say real) reasons to be happy:

…on days when the subjects tried to display smiles through deeper efforts — by actually cultivating pleasant thoughts and memories — their overall moods improved and their productivity increased.

So if you’re having a crappy day at work don’t just fake happiness – find reasons to be happy. And if that doesn’t work, go ahead and have a crappy day. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and we all do it regularly.

Now, if you have a crappy month, on the other hand…

6 thoughts on “Faking happiness is bad for you”

  1. Alexander thanks for article. You may be interested in another study I read recently in the Organizational Psychology Review http://bit.ly/fbf7Hc by Stephane Cote and Ivona Hideg. (pg 57 of the journal).

    Evidence shows that “deep acting” (as opposed to surface acting) can indeed help your happiness. Better still, it can impact the happiness of those around you!

    Net: if you’re a deep faker, it may just work.

  2. I have to say I tend to disagree a bit. Happiness exists inside of you; it is not something that is determined by outside circumstances, which can change at any moment. During the rare off-day, I actually do find chatting with others and being friendly lifts my spirits. Making a mental list of everything that you have in your life to be grateful for works wonders, too.

  3. Thanks for bringing this up Alexander! Connecting, identifying with, and acknowledging emotions, all emotions, is so important. Pretending that the feeling is doing nothing but not being honest with yourself, imo. But if we acknowledge what we are feeling and why, and then use tools to help us like positive social interaction, yoga, meditation…then we have true happiness…not fake.

  4. happiness and sadness are frankly emotions.. and all emotions pass. if you allow it.
    Focus is the key here. if you focus on how sad you are you’ll be come sadder.
    if when your sad you focus on (the things you mention) what you find good in life and the little hidden messages. then you can pick up yoru mood.
    better yet.
    say yeah i’m sad.. then move on.. let it go.. sadness and happiness doesn’t have to consume you!

  5. Not sure, but I think I been pretending to be nice, since I was in high school. Iv been pretending to be happy around other people, I cant help feel angry inside when people get things so easily, when Iv been trying hard to get myself.. I dont know but it could have been the fact, I grew up with nothing, and not asking my parents for anything, seeing other people happy is something I want, but can never get.. I hate this feeling.

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