Smile Your Way to Happiness

It turns out the “fake it till you make it” adage can work when it comes to bringing more happiness to your life. 

Over the past two decades, advocates of “positive psychology” have put a focus on the traits of people who report happiness and satisfaction with their lives, using them as a template for others who haven’t found the same sense of fulfillment. 

Humans tend to have a happiness “set point,” a place where their mood tends to return to after external events yank it higher or lower. But research has found there are ways for you to push that default setting higher: 

  • Reframe your experiences by fighting the use of negative, inaccurate descriptions that make you angry or hopeless. Instead of telling yourself “I can’t do this,” acknowledge the impact of the mere four hours of sleep you got last night or remind yourself of all the times you’ve done it before. 
  • Being active and engaged in your activities helps you reach the state of “flow,” or getting so engrossed in the process that you’re losing track of time. Happiness awaits you at the end because you’re putting all your attention toward accomplishing something productive, whether it’s washing dishes or riding in the rodeo. 
  • Tending to your personal relationships and cultivating your place in a wider community does boost contentment, so make a point of touching base with family and friends often to reinforce those bonds. Joining a religious group or community organization can also build your sense of purpose.
  • Related to this is the embrace of common values, which usually involve serving others and working toward the greater good. Listen to your calling to serve others through fields like health care or education, or build a few “random acts of kindness” into your week. Feel and express gratitude for any favor or helping hand offered to you. 

As you can see, this isn’t as simple as plastering a smile across your face to paper over the disappointments in your life. It’s an active process of recalibrating your outlook on the world and your place in it, which yields a huge payoff! 

Photo of Goldwater Lake by Blushing Cactus Photography