YOU'VE BEEN AROUND for fifty years or so, and if you interact
with people 15 to 30 years old, you have probably noticed a marked
trend away from the phony "putting on a happy face"
you saw so much as a child. It is becoming more and more common
for people to avoid trying to fool others into thinking they're
happy when they're not.
I think this is a good trend. It is a trend
away from fake smiles and insincere bubbliness and toward authenticity
and honesty. It is a trend away from worrying about what others
may think and toward relying on what you think. Emerson
called this Self-Reliance.
There is a drawback to this trend, however.
I will explain the drawback in a minute, but first read this
experiment from an article on humor:
"The actual expression on your face
might make it easier or harder to see what's funny. This idea
comes from an experiment by Fritz Strack, a psychologist at Mannheim
University in Germany. He took a bunch of people and told them
he was going to test their physical skills. Then he showed them
a series of cartoons and told them to rate the cartoons' funniness.
But he told them to hold a pen in their mouth while they did
it. Half of them were told to hold it between their lips; the
other half, between their teeth.
"The ones with the pen between their
teeth rated the cartoons as funnier.
"Apparently, when they held the pen
between their lips, they couldn't smile, but when it was between
their teeth, they were forced to smile the whole time, and that
physical change in their facial expression changed how funny
something was. Interesting. And it might have some usefulness
to you in your quest to see things as funny."
In another article this one about developing
an attitude that will help you accomplish goals you find
out about two more experiments along the same lines:
"The researcher Patricia Ruselli did
an experiment that went like this: The subject was brought in
and told to watch a slide presentation designed to produce sadness.
Half the subjects were told to frown while they watched it. The
other half were told not to frown.
"For several hours afterwards, the
people who frowned felt more depressed than the people who didn't
"Another bit of evidence comes from
a pilot study that found when people were injected with Botox
to get rid of furrowed brows, it improved their mood, showing
in particular, decreases in symptoms of depression. Even when
your facial expression is changed with a paralyzing toxin, it
can alter your emotional state.
"The point of all this is for you
to realize that when you change your facial expression, you change
The drawback I see from the trend toward
authenticity is more time spent in bad moods. Here's how
it works: Something makes you feel less than happy. You honestly
frown or purse your lips or whatever. And then that outward and
honest expression of your negative state makes you more likely
to be in a bad mood longer, to find things less humorous, to
act in ways more likely to offend or hurt people close to you,
Does this mean you have to make a choice
between being genuine and natural (but grumpy) or being artificial,
back-slapping, glad-handing, and insincere (but happier)?
I don't think so. Like many other things,
this issue is not a black-and-white, all-or-nothing problem.
Thinking of your choices in those terms is itself another
significant cause of bad moods, oddly enough, but that's another
story (read more about that here).
The distinction missing here is your
intention. The reason you do something has a big effect
on your mood. For example, you can smile at someone in order
to fool them into thinking you're happy when you're not.
That's one reason to smile. But that's obviously not the only
reason possible. You can smile at someone as a gift to them.
You can smile simply to experiment with the effect of smiling
on your mood.
The first smile will probably give you
a bad feeling. Being fake for self-serving reasons feels bad,
even if the physical act of turning up your lips (into a smile)
might improve your mood in the longer run. But the second two
reasons for smiling improve your mood just as well but
without the sour taste in your mouth from being phony. Your intention
Being authentic can improve your
mood if it's done right. It can contribute to a genuine and heartfelt
enthusiasm for living. (Read more about that here.) Pay attention
to the look on your face, the way you move your body, even the
way you breathe. All these can have an impact on your mood. Do
it for the right reasons, and you can have your integrity and
feel good too.
Read more: A
Simple Way To Change How You Feel.