Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

If only you could snap your fingers, right?

If only you could find a way to get through the next three weeks of business travel without banging your head against several hard(er) objects, you'd pay for the privilege.

Feeling happy just isn't easy in a world of instant gratification, instant success, instant demands, and, of course, instant failure.

Is there anything you can actually do to make yourself happier?

Other than inflate the debt on your credit card in the service of profligate highs?

Well, I've happily stumbled onto a piece of research that offers a tiny clue.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee and Texas A&M thought they'd examine one of the older methods of making yourself feel happier, one that most Europeans believe began in America.

Smiling.

Nicholas Coles, PhD. student in social psychology and lead researcher, offered this stimulating insight: 

Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl. But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years.

I'm trying to picture psychologists arguing about smiling.

Do they throw things at each other while scowling? 

Still, it's a beguiling idea that you can alter your facial expression in order to will yourself into a better frame of mind.

These researchers thought they could seek definitive answers by acting as referees over all the relevant research.

They examined 138 studies conducted over the last 50 years. The studies enjoyed more than 11,000 participants.

The conclusions are, to my scowl-frown mind, disturbing: Smiling does make you a little happier, frowning makes you feel a little sadder, and scowling makes you a little more politically extreme. 

I'm sorry, I mean angrier. Which is more or less the same thing these days.

Coles insisted he doesn't think that smiling is a quick fix for depression. It's just that smiling does sometimes lift the mood. He said: 

These findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion.

Of course, these scientists just want to know for sure how emotions work.

Meanwhile, I struggle.

How on earth do you force yourself to smile and make it somehow convincing? For that matter, how to paint a frown upon your face in order to make yourself sadder?

I'm sure they practice this in Hollywood all the time. I'm sure the likes of Alec Baldwin and Emma Stone are masters of the art.

But instilling a smiley mentality into your essence surely takes a lot of work.

Still, if smiling is a way to make you feel happier during a budget meeting, a seminar with your least favorite client, or a whole conference accompanying your underperforming sales team, perhaps you should see if it works.

I'm frowning as I say that, of course.

Published on: Apr 16, 2019
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