CULTURE

How to Fake Your Way to Happiness

It's all in the smile

Everyone knows that when we're truly happy, we have an irrepressible urge to turn up the corners of our mouths and crinkle our eyes. We smile. But back in 1872, Charles Darwin proposed the theory that smiling can actually intensify our emotion of happiness. While that seems like a hardly scientifically supportable claim, according to a study by the University of Cardiff in Wales, participants who received botox (which suppresses the ability to frown) reported feeling happier and decreased levels of anxiety. But this works the other way around, too. Another study in the Journal of Pain concluded that those making unhappy faces during a procedure reported experiencing more pain than those who smiled or made neutral faces during the procedure.

Being genuine has its perks, but sometimes a little sugar-coating is just what you need to get through the day and be happy. If everyone knew our real thoughts and feelings all the time, it's likely we'd have no job, no friends, and we may or may not be in jail. Faking it a little bit is not being inauthentic, but is necessary to be able communicate in a professional setting and compromise in any relationship. Here's how to do it right:

Know when to take the blame, even if you're not to blame

You know the old saying, "The customer is always right." It's true. In a doctor's waiting room I once overheard an unnecessary battle between an elderly couple and a frustrated nurse. The woman was waiting to get called into the lab for bloodwork, but couldn't hear when the nurse called her name. After 30 minutes, the woman's husband asked the nurse when she would be called. The nurse snarkily remarked, "I already called her three times!" The husband, shocked, responded, "I'm sorry, we were sitting here the whole time and did not hear you call her name." The nurse rolled her eyes and said, "You have to listen when I call your name. I called her three times! Just come on back now." I understand how hardworking and frustrated nurses can be, but is it worth getting a bad reputation and nasty customer survey? I don't think so. Take a breath. Take the blame, even if it isn't your fault. Being defensive is not attractive or professional, and it will not get you a raise. A smile will go much further.

When you're exhausted, act like a rock star

Performing solo at a cool bar in NYC tonight and feeling blah about it? Going to a rager and feeling like you want to hide in a cocoon? Presenting a new concept at work and wanting to run away? Fake it. Think about a time when you were really pumped up, even if it was when you were a little kid. Think of when you got your first pair of Converse hi-tops. Remember when you hugged a koala for the first time (even if it didn't really happen…). Going back to these moments when you were truly happy will trigger those feelings again. Can't think of anything good that's happened in your life? Start with smiling; it will naturally release endorphins to make you feel better. Take some time to make yourself look good (and smell good). Listen to something upbeat even if you honestly want to sulk with some Bon Iver. Convince yourself that you are pumped up and you will be in no time!

Know when it's best just to compromise

Your boyfriend is taking you to a metal concert somewhat against your will. You love the guy, but you also would like to keep your hearing. You don't want to insult him because he's especially sensitive about music… I smell compromise! You can get through this concert by wearing some flesh-toned earplugs. Smile and enjoy yourself for what it is. People watch. Learn something new; you might find you like metal. Ask him to leave before the last song so you can beat traffic (a little trick I've learned over the years…). Next concert is your choice: mellow jazz-folk fusion. He can fake it by bringing an adult coloring book along to keep him from falling asleep. If you can't take these creative steps to faking it without a fight breaking out, maybe it's not the right relationship for you.

I hope these tips will have you faking your way to happiness!

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