Does it work? If you "put on a happy face" as an old song suggests, will you be more happy?
Study after study shows that it’s true. If you act happy, you will actually be more happy. Maybe not doubled-over laughing happy, but happier than you were.
Social psychologists have proven that the action we choose to take today normally follows our behavior of yesterday–which follows our behavior of the day before, etc….. In other words, our behavior repeats itself until it becomes habit.
If you wish to be more outgoing and optimistic, just start acting outgoing and optimistic. Fake it. Don’t worry that you don’t feel like it–just do it.
For a time it feels phony. That is natural.
But it is also natural for our actions to begin to feel comfortable after some time frame–a few days or weeks or months depending upon the individual. In fact, it is said that a habit is created in only 21 days.
Many therapy techniques push people into choosing more positive behaviors. The could be called the "power of positive acting."
Remember your first few days on your very first job. Even though you acted confident and knowledgeable, you felt like an impostor inside.
Yet this phony feeling gradually subsided. Eventually you were confident about your job. Your behavior was part of your new attitude!
Say you’ve had a bad day and you’re really in a grumpy mood–ready to vegetate in front of the television for the evening.
Then a new acquaintance calls. You don’t really know this person well enough to gripe and complain so you put on a cheerful voice and act happy.
When you hang up, you don’t feel so cranky. In fact, you are actually smiling and feeling pretty cheerful.
What if you had left work and gone directly to a social event, bad mood and all? Would that have made you happier?
Probably. That is one of the values of social occasions. They compel us to act as if we are happy and optimistic. This triggers our happiness, or at least helps free us from unhappiness.
Why? Most of us unconsciously mimic the facial expressions, posture, and tone of voice of the people around us. If they appear happy, we act happy and then are happy, too.
The opposite also follows. If optimism breeds cheer, then pessimism breeds melancholy. This explains why few people enjoy being around a whiner.
It is true that we can not expect ourselves to become more optimistic and outgoing overnight. But we can act that way immediately. Eventually our outward motions will become comfortable and real. Our behaviors will become our attitudes.