A study published earlier this month from the Academy of Management Journal shows that an “inauthentic smile to hide unhappiness can further worsen your mood.”
The study tracked a group of bus drivers for two weeks, because well, if you’ve ever been on a school bus, you know that is one place where if you’re smiling, you’re probably faking it. Who likes flying pencils, lunch boxes with rotten bananas? Or small children who are at the age where anything involving rules makes you the bad guy? But still, when you hit the bus stop, under the scrutiny of the parent, you have to eek out a smile and cheerily say “Have a nice day!”
The scientists looked at what would happen when the drivers smiled with “surface acting” and its opposite, “deep acting,” where they authentically through positive thoughts. When smiles were forced, the drivers’ moods “deteriorated and they tended to withdraw from work,” and when they actually tried to cultivate pleasant thoughts and memories, “their overall moods improved and productivity increased.”
Hmm…so I guess it is all about the eat, pray, love, and finding inner true happiness? Easier said than done, I suppose. In the mean time, I think I might just have to think again when I take Nat King Cole’s advice to “smile when (your) heart is aching; smile even though its breaking.”
Read more about the study here.