Faking Happiness: Is It Worth It?

Turn that frown upside down!–or not. According to a new study, faking a smile to hide your unhappiness may actually make you more upset. Here’s the New York Times: 

In a study published this month in the Academy of Management Journal, 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….

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.

But 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.

The New York Times article says the bottom line is that the “Research suggests that an inauthentic smile to hide unhappiness can further worsen your mood.” 

Maybe, but I don’t think that’s an argument against faking happiness. Consider the people you interact with when you’re in a bad mood: do you really want them to know that you’re not happy? Also think about how your perceived unhappiness affects the happiness of those other people around you. Do you want your bad mood to make them unhappy too? The way I see it, in our mundane, daily encounters with people, the socially appropriate move is to fake happiness. Doing otherwise is just selfish and self-absorbed. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but as a general principle, I say fake the smile. 

What do you think?