A few years ago, a small movement was started where people came together in groups to practice smiling and laughing. You may have seen or read about it at the time. The reason these groups came to be was because it was thought that laughing and smiling would make people feel better and happier.
Did it work? Does smiling make you happy? One study suggests it may not have worked; that forcing yourself to smile and laugh could have the opposite effect on your happiness.
This study found that forcing a smile when you are feeling bad, can make you feel even worse about your situation — the smile is a reminder that you aren’t really happy. The “fake it til you make it” approach just doesn’t work for many people when it comes to happiness. There has to be a better way, and there is. Instead of forcing a smile, consider these suggestions.
1. Be Honest With Yourself
If you are going through a hard time right now, the only way out is to deal with it, and the first step is to be honest with yourself about it. Many times, we try to deceive not only the people around us, but also ourselves. Give yourself permission to own how you are really feeling. If you know that forcing a smile is going to hurt more than it helps, don’t force it. It is OK if you don’t smile every moment!
2. Be Honest With Others
How many times do you answer the question, “How are you?” with “I’m fine,” or “Good.” How many times are you not feeling fine or good when you say that you are? Maybe it’s time to be honest with your answers to that dreaded question.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you give the cashier at McDonald’s your life story; sometimes it is necessary to smile and say “I’m fine” because being honest with others doesn’t mean opening up to everyone. Choose specific people in your life, who you trust, and tell them how you really feel. Tell them that you are tired of faking a smile, and tired of pretending to be OK when you really aren’t.
When these people ask how you are, tell them the truth. The world needs more truth tellers because there isn’t one person on this earth who has not put on a plastic smile and pretended everything is OK when it really wasn’t. Not everyone will understand what you are going through, but they will understand how it feels to “fake it.” We have ALL been there!
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
There is never, never, never any shame in getting help when it is needed. Therapy, counselling, or sometimes even just talking it out with a good friend can help immensely. A good counselor will help you deal with the problem and give you the tools you need to find your smile again — the real smile, not the fake one!
This usually means work on your part — there are no magic words to make you feel better, but there are things you can do to change the way you think or view a situation in your life, and ways to correct certain issues that cause unhappiness. If you go and get help, remember to put into practice the suggestions given to you.
4. Try a Real Smile on for Size
Whatever your situation is right now, whatever the cause of your fake smiles, there are still opportunities for your real smile to show itself. Think about what makes you happy. If you cannot think of anything, go a little farther back and think about the simple things that used to bring a smile to your face.
It could be something as simple as watching your dog play at the park, or listening to your favorite song. Or it could be something like sharing a good cup of coffee with a friend. Whatever it is, revisit those moments in your life that made you smile for real.
Go back and try it again. While that study proved that faking a smile doesn’t bring happiness, it did prove that when you are happy, you will smile. Go back to what makes you happy, and you will find yourself smiling again.
(Please note that this article does not mention depression — this is an illness to be taken seriously, and needs to be treated by a professional. The advice given in this last paragraph will not help anyone who is severely depressed.)