How To Be Happy With A Smile : Fake Smile Creates Real Happiness

By Kenny Lee | Emotional Wellness

Aug 31

How To Be Happy With A Smile

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

What if happiness is closer than you think? What if being happy is a learnable skill. In one of my previous post, 11 Things To Do When You Are Overwhelmed, I mentioned forcing a smile in the face of chaos to turn the negative emotions into positive. One of my reader Margarita wondered if it really works and requested for a post dedicated to this. And she even suggested a headline “Fake Smile Creates Positive Emotion“, (but I decided to give it a slight tweak). Thank you, Margarita!!

I think we all have our fair share of negativity and days where we just wished we could skip over. If you are facing tremendous stress in your work or relationship, the last thing you would think of and wanted is to smile. I mean, for those who have never tried this, it really sounds absurd. If someone asked me to do exactly the same thing a year back I’ll probably go “Are you crazy? My life is in a mess and you asked me to what?? Smile??

Recommended : 11 Things To Do When You Are Overwhelmed

I don’t blame you if you have similar reactions. But here’s the thing.

Feeling Down Doesn’t Change A Thing

How To Be Happy With A Smile

It’s easy to get trapped in a negative cycle of emotional states. One negative thought leads to another. You see problems in every situation. And depending on your mental state, these cycles often could continue until you decided to break it. Feeling down and depressed doesn’t solve problems.

In fact, it only makes the situation worse, as you will be scaring yourself with wild imaginations of how things could go wrong. It’s like keeping your head under the water. How do you expect to see the land?

Here’s what I decided to do one fine day when my mind was so clouded with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts of despair, sadness, regrets, blame, and anger enough to cause another depressive spell.

How To Be Happy With A Smile

I decided to force myself into a smile. It’s just a simple but powerful act of pulling my mouth upward into a smile. I didn’t know what to expect back then, but in a sudden, my thought changes. It became brighter and lighter. Thoughts of hope, possibilities, and even joy started to replace those negative ones. The clouds of negativity gave way to true feelings of joy and happiness.

Call it feelings of happiness from emotional memory or what (I don’t know the right term). It doesn’t matter. The fact is ,the chain of negativity is broken, just like that. It is different than being in denial, where people turned to alcohol and drugs to forget their problems. I’m perfectly aware of problems and issues at hand. It’s just that I am now facing it with a calmer and positive mindset. 

But maybe it’s just a coincidence? ” I don’t blame you for questioning the method.

But I have repeated the same trick again, a few times after. And it works perfectly well. I’m not saying or claiming that smiling will solve our problems or make your stressors disappear. I’m saying by experience that smiling makes you feel positive. Your energy changes to a higher level. And it does indeed give you better perspective looking when you’re looking for solutions.

The Science Behind The Smile

How To Be Happy With A Smile

I really want to back up my story with other resources. As soon as I knew I would be writing this post, I emailed Dr. Marcia Reynolds ( who’s article has given me insight on my post How To Find Your Purpose In Life) for her opinion. Here’s her answer when I emailed her on how fake smiles could create positive real happiness.

“There is a lot of research that indicates both posture and facial gestures can shift a person’s emotional state. As Amy Cuddy of the Harvard Business School taught us, if before going into an interview or meeting, you stand up straight and put your hands on your hips, you feel more powerful from the inside out. Smiling works the same way. When you smile, your brain reacts to the change in your muscles by secreting dopamine and serotine, which make you feel better all over. The positive expression will trump the negative feeling. If you practice this in situations where you feel uncomfortable or disappointed, the practice will rewire your brain so your negative reactions will decrease over time. Smiling is a great habit to develop!

If you need more proof, just remember the last time you were angry with someone and then they made you laugh. You just couldn’t be angry any longer, right?”

Dr. Marcia Reynold has a doctorate in organizational psychology. With her expertise in emotional intelligence, leadership, and speech, she has been coaching top CEOs and corporate leaders and has taught in more than 30 countries.

If you are interested in learning more about shifting your emotional states or choosing how to feel and act, her book Outsmart Your Brain is one  that you must read. (You can click the image below to read the reviews from Amazon).

Or you can check out her website here.

Smiling In The Face Of Adversity

You do not need to wait for all your problems to go away to be happy. You do not need to be rich to be happy. Neither do you need to be successful, slim, handsome, pretty, or anything to be happy. Happiness is always within you at this present moment. You just have to know the right way to reach for it.

There is a truth to the quotes “Happiness is not a destination“, Happiness is Now” or “Happiness is not out there, it’s in you“. It is not rocket science in being happy (yet so many struggles for it). This is where the skill and mindset plays an important role. People practice mindfulness meditation, to learn to live in the present. That is happiness.

RecommendedMaster Your Mind Now

I can’t blog about happiness without mentioning Andrew Matthews, the author my first ever motivational bookHow Life Works.(I read that when I was leaving high school, that’s more than a decade back.) He delivers his wisdom right to the point and with a touch of humor in the illustration.  His book Happiness In Hard Times is one you that may want to check out.

Would you face your problems with a frown or smile? Have you tried smiling to change your negative moods? Share your thoughts with us and subscribe if you enjoy reading posts like this.

About the Author

I struggled with social anxiety for at least 15 years, without really knowing what I was going through. Eventually, I defeated my social phobia and conquered the fear of public speaking.

Leave a Comment:

(40) comments

Kent August 31, 2016

Hey Kenny, I highly believe there is a reason why your website popped up on my WA profile page asking me to give you a comment because to be honest, I am currently going through some personal problems and am feeling down but I must admit after reading this article, you have helped me put a smile back on my face (I am known as a smiley-guy :)). A big thank you to you for writing this article and also keep up the great work with your website as I really love your focus and purpose.

Don’t stop being awesome buddy!

Reply
    Kenny Lee August 31, 2016

    Hi Kent,

    I’m glad that I’m able to put that smile back. We all need some encouragement sometimes. It doesn’t have to be a lone journey.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
      Kent September 4, 2016

      We need encouragement all the time no matter how strong we think we are as we are only human

      Reply
        Kenny Lee September 4, 2016

        Hi Kent,

        Exactly. Even the strongest of us will have their downtime.

        Kenny

        Reply
shrey August 31, 2016

Hi Kenny,
I actually read this article and tried to smile when I was really stressed out and it worked!
It actually worked!
I felt a bit more relaxed and felt that the stressed out feeling went out slowly leaving my mind calmer.
I really liked this post and the post where you suggest what needs to be done when you are overwhelmed!
Thanks a lot for helping!

Reply
    Kenny Lee August 31, 2016

    Hi Shrey,

    I’m happy and touched that you actually take the effort to try it out. I’m glad that it worked. I hope you are blessed with happiness.

    Thank you.

    Kenny

    Reply
James W D August 31, 2016

It is nice to see the science behind this as I am a firm believer in what I call Smile Therapy. I discovered this little gem on my own and would often use it when feeling down. I even have an article on my site about it as well. I appreciate that you took some extra steps to put that science input behind it Kenny!

Reply
    Kenny Lee August 31, 2016

    Hi James,

    It’s good to have your comment again. Do you mind sharing your sites below. I think some readers may like to read what you have at yours.

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
Kristof August 31, 2016

Very interesting article; I must give it a try, though sometimes it’s very hard to smile when you’re really stressed and tired. But anyway must try first, before I decide that such smile isn’t honest and it’s forceful. I like the mindfulness meditation more, because I think this can bring the real smile and happiness.

Reply
    Kenny Lee August 31, 2016

    Hi Kristof,

    The forced smile is just a trigger to bring true feeling of joy. When you feel happiness, then your smile is no longer fake. Meditation is a good way too. Let me know if it works.

    Kenny

    Reply
Hari August 31, 2016

I know this works, as the saying goes fake it till you make it, this is probably one obvious example.

Since there is a biological response to all the emotions, when can also reverse the process. So if we try to fake a smile for a long time our body releases the chemicals that can actually make us feel better.

You have pointed out a very important thing here Kenny, it acted as a good reminder to me. But I think the real effort to make it work lies in one’s willpower because it is very difficult to smile when you are sad.

Reply
    Kenny Lee August 31, 2016

    Hi Hari,

    You are right that this require strong willpower. Most people wouldn’t even try because the negativity is oppressing their will to change. But sometimes it just take a single smile to actually bring the positive energy back and flush the negatives away.

    Thanks for reading.
    Kenny

    Reply
Holly August 31, 2016

I love this article – thank you so much for sharing. I have heard that smiling does help improve your mood but never really thought much of it before. Now as I was just reading your post I tried it and it certainly does make a difference! Have you got any other useful tips on positive thinking etc. as I would really like some more practical tips like this. Thank you

Reply
    Kenny Lee August 31, 2016

    Hi Holly,

    Thanks for enjoying my post and I’m glad this simple technique makes a difference to you.

    I’ll be writing on How To Form Permanent Good Habits or something along that line too, also from a request from a reader.

    I hope to keep you updated when I have further post. Alternatively, do sign up to the email list, as I keep my readers updated of every new blog post.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Syed Suhail Ahmed August 31, 2016

Thank you so much for this informative post.

I completely agree with the fact that we all have our fair share of problems and it is so very important to change the negative moods we often feel due to circumstances.

I’m glad I came across your article today because this is certainly not something you read every day. Forcing ourselves into a smile and breaking the chain of negativity… wow, that’s something I will try doing.

Thanks once again,
Suhail.

Reply
    Kenny Lee August 31, 2016

    Hi Suhail,

    Do try out the technique I mentioned, and see if it works. I have friends who have tried it out and it’s working for them. And you get to look at your problems at a wider perspective when you are feeling positive.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Caroline August 31, 2016

This is so so true! Even more so, I find, is the old “if I don’t laugh, then I’ll cry” technique. Usually used during an awful period of stress and heavy workload in my day job, I basically make myself laugh about how awful the situation feels versus what would be a true disaster in my personal life. The laughing makes you feel happier, and putting it into perspective makes you realise that things COULD be much worse! 🙂 Has anyone else for any similar tips?

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 1, 2016

    Caroline,

    That’s wonderful, you are practically laughing in the face of storm. Awesome!

    I’ll keep you updated if I found more of similar useful techniques.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Martina August 31, 2016

I have heard about this tip before to look in the mirror and smile when you’re feeling down or depressed. I’ve tried it a few times and it helps. For me it seems to be most beneficial if I begin my day smiling in the mirror. I’d recommend other people try that too. It’s like it helps set you up for a great day and things don’t get to you as easily.
I like how Dr. Marcia Reynold pointed out that we get over our anger more quickly if the other person makes us laugh. It has happened to me before. I’m now interested in reading her book Outsmart Your Brain. Sounds like my type of book.

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 1, 2016

    Hi Martina,

    I think when you look into the mirror, it only enhance the technique that I suggested. Thanks for sharing your experience and I hope you enjoy Dr. Marcia’s book.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
coughlanmaureen August 31, 2016

Very interesting and insightful website!
Your post on how to be happy with a smile is very well written and you put forward some very valid points

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 1, 2016

    Thank you for reading

    Kenny

    Reply
Alexey August 31, 2016

Hey, your article made me smile:)
Being trapped in your negative emotional-cycle sometimes happen to me twice a day. But like you said, being happy or changing your current state is in our control. We can control our emotions, and DO SOMETHING that automatically ramps up our state. For example, clapping, or just telling to yourself positive things over and over, or dancing, etc..
Thanks for such a great article!

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 1, 2016

    Hi Alexey,

    Thanks for reading and also sharing other methods that could help us snap out of the negative cycle.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Rehmiee September 2, 2016

Goodday Kenny,
There are days when all I want to do is smile but things seems to weigh me down.Reading your great article put a “slap” om my face and say, its time to bring those smiles back to life. In pursue of our happiness in life,we tend to loose our smile along the way.Thank you for lighting up our life with your smiling article.

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 2, 2016

    Hi Rehmiee,

    There are times we need someone to pull us out of our doom and gloom. I’m glad you got your smile back.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Kevin September 2, 2016

This is definitely something I need to apply to my everyday life. I absolutely do feel trapped with depression and if does make me have constant negative thoughts and emotions which is definitely not helping whatsoever. Going to try to smile more often even if there’s nobody around just so I can make myself feel happier. Starting now! 🙂

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 2, 2016

    Hi Kevin,

    You can smile even if you are in public. It not only get you out of the negativity. It makes you feel confident when in public. Smiling gives a safe energy.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

    Reply
Timothy Gagnon September 2, 2016

This is really true. I remember one time when I was commuting to a party and not feeling in a particularly good mood I remembered this trick and started forcing myself to smile. Not sure what people thought about a random person smiling for no reason on the sidewalk but it definitely helped me feel better and have more fun. Thanks for sharing!

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 2, 2016

    Hi Timothy,

    I’m not sure what others would think of you but it’s definitely better than walking down the street in a foul mood. Keep your smile on.

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
Wendy September 2, 2016

This is very true. I believe happiness is a choice. I choose to be happy and not dwell on the negative. I also find that smiling is contagious. If you smile at someone, they instinctively smile back. It is a natural reflex.

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 2, 2016

    Hi Wendy,

    When you smile, people naturally feel safe to be around you. It makes them less defensive. Thanks for reading.

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
James Kelly September 3, 2016

Well this is certainly a thought provoking article and if you are feeling down you definitely need to do something to break the cycle of negativity so by putting on a brave face and smiling at adversity may possibly change one’s mood. I have also heard that a few good belly laughs can also help to achieve the same result!

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 4, 2016

    Hi James,

    Another reader also suggested a good laugh to bring back the positives. Great sharing.

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
Neil September 4, 2016

I’ve heard that smiling despite our circumstances can make us feel happy because I guess we are training our minds to turn negativity into positivity. 🙂

However, like you say, it can be difficult to smile in certain situations. I know this because I suffered from a short spell of PTS and I just couldn’t pick myself up for weeks.

Some people do turn to alcohol and drugs but they are only short-term happiness fixes which I think is the main reason why people become addicted to drinking alcohol and drug taking. Personally, I’d rather get help and inspiration from articles like yours 🙂

Neil

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 4, 2016

    Hi Neil,

    Thank you for reading and your complimentary comment. It really means alot to me. Sometimes it’s very hard to get a smile on our face. Because we are controlled by our emotion and we attached our emotion to the situation we’re in. But this often brings us no where and often it only prolong the difficult situation we are in.

    Thanks for the comment.
    Kenny

    Reply
Margarita September 9, 2016

Kenny, thank you so much for that! I appreciate it.

It is hard to believe. Faking a smile actually does something.
And there is even a scientific proof. Now, I don’t have any excuses to walk around without smiling for days.

I am going to employ it the next time I am down 😉

Reply
    Kenny Lee September 9, 2016

    Hi Margarita,

    You’re more than welcome. I’m glad this post answer your questions. Remember to smile always.

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
Darren November 18, 2016

Smiling releases endorphins and dopamine into your brain I hear. I think it works, to an extent, because you can’t fake being happy all the time when your life is crumbling down around you.

Don’t think it works perfectly for everyone, in fact, I think for certain people it can backfire because they realize they’re just trying to fake it. I think faking it before you make it can only help to an extent. In most cases if people are just miserable all the time they only become happy when they take action and start trying to make their lives better.

Reply
    Kenny Lee November 19, 2016

    Hi Darren,

    The point is when you are having your life crumbling all around you, sometimes it’s hard to reach for that little energy to start fixing things. Or you will be so negative to see the solutions glaring right in your face.

    While it may seems faking it, forcing a smile does indeed releases endorphin and activate the muscle memories to reach for some positive emotions within.

    Maybe that’s all what we needed to bounce back higher?

    Cheers,
    Kenny

    Reply
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