Fake it Til You Make It: Does it Work for Happiness?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I won’t bore you with details, but this month is crazy for me. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Everyone has days like that, right?

So, I was curious about this ‘fake it til you make it’ philosophy. Does it really work? Can you fake happiness until you feel it? In other words, does that old folk remedy to put on a happy face and smile really make us feel better?

A number of studies agree with that line of thinking. Research shows that you can trick your brain into thinking you’re on the road to happiness.

It’s like the placebo effect which demonstrates the power the mind has to influence the body. When researchers give one group a drug and another group sugar pills, shockingly, the participants who receive the sugar pill often show signs of improvement. Why? Just because they expect their symptoms to get better. The participants of one study expected a placebo pill to kill pain: and, sure enough, they experienced less pain. This is the placebo effect. Even cancer patients who receive an empty injection have had their cancer go into remission simply because they believed they were receiving a new miracle drug that would make them better.

Or how about ‘self-fulfilling prophecies?’ Basically, that means a prediction about the outcome of a situation can lead to behavior that makes the prediction come true. For example, if you believe that you are going to fail, that can hinder your performance and the belief becomes reality. Likewise, if you believe you will succeed, it can give you the confidence to take the necessary steps to make success a reality.

In other words, your beliefs and expectations can have an impact on what happens to you and produce real results. Feelings often turn into actions. That’s why believing we’re happy can have a positive effect on us.

So if we’re feeling depressed and miserable, we can wallow in our misery and make ourselves feel worse or focus on things that make us happy and turn that frown upside down. We have choices. We can choose to coax ourselves into smiling. We can choose to have a more positive outlook. We can choose to be joyful.

That’s not to say that faking it til we feel it is a cure-all solution for all our problems. But isn’t it worth a try? If you’re feeling low, why not deliberately act more cheerful and see what happens? If you want to be happier, why not start acting happier?

I’m certainly going to give it a try. Right now, I’m counting my blessings, thinking of the ocean, and singing the words to the song “Happy.”

“Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you”

Yup, I’m smiling right now and I must say, I definitely feel a little happier.


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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