Are you ever sad when you want to be happy? Stupid question, I know. Better question: Why aren’t you always happy? I know, now you’re wondering what type of bullshit I am going to try to sell you. Worry not. I’m selling nothing.
My bullshit is free.
People always tell you to act the way you want to feel, not the way you are feeling. Have you listened? Of course not; what do they know? Well just for you, I have tested this theory’s validity just in time to prepare for the end of the school year, when laughs will be shared and tears — or clothes — will be shed.
Following this advice, if I’m feeling sad, I should act happy; angry, I should act calm; fat, I should act like Kate Moss. This thinking may seem unrealistic and yes, to an extent, it probably is. As much as we may want to laugh it off, there is plenty of research to demonstrate that people feel happier simply by acting like they already are.
Even sitting by yourself and laughing for five minutes or smiling every time you want to frown is shown to make you feel better. Why? Since we normally only smile when we are happy, by “faking” emotions we are, in essence, tricking our bodies.
The day I chose to put this theory into practice couldn’t have been better. I had just gotten back from the dentist and was actually feeling in pretty high spirits, except that the numbing medications hadn’t worn off and I couldn’t really smile. Every time my friend told a joke I would just nod and try not to laugh, which was more difficult than it seems. Even though I was in a good mood, I actually started being in a worse mood because I was frowning.
After a little unscientific analysis, I think this effect had to do both with knowing that I came across as moody, and because my body registered the frown as indicative of a negative emotion. Although this experiment wasn’t what I set out to do that day, it inadvertently showed me how your body is inextricably tied to your mind, providing this theory with some of the soundness and strength it needs to be accepted.
But I didn’t stop there. A few days later, long after the numbing agents wore off, I felt deprived of laughs and decided to try laughing alone for five minutes in my room. After this exercise — one that rivaled any workout I’ve done this semester — my jaw was sore and my sense of sanity diminished.
Did I feel happier? Well, I did feel slightly manic, and my energy levels were definitely up. I’d say the whole experience felt similar to drinking espresso through your eyes. You’re hyper, in pain and view the world a little differently.