Ways to Look and Act Happy when You Don’t Feel It

Ways to Look and Act Happy when You Don’t Feel It

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Ways to Look and Act Happy when You Don’t Feel It

Sometimes a little “fake it till you make it” can give you the nudge you need to set you in a positive direction. While it’s never a good idea to be insincere or put on a facade for other people, there are times when you need to muster your energy and get through a situation. Perhaps you mess up in the middle of a presentation or hate going to mandatory holiday parties. You may just need a little courage to get through until the situation is over.

Part 1
Part 1 of 2:
Looking Happy

Smile. An easy way to look and act happy is smiling. But did you know that smiling can actually boost your mood? Smiling can induce feelings of happiness just as happiness can cause a smile.[1][2]
Try smiling with your whole face, not just your lips. Feel your cheeks and eyes change when engaging a large smile. This kind of smile is associated with positive emotions.[3]
If you’re feeling upset or grumpy, combat those feelings with a smile. Try to connect with the sensations of smiling and begin to feel happiness.
Fake competence. Getting through an uncomfortable situation while looking or feeling unfazed is a skill, and much can be attributed to confidence. If you have a presentation and feel fearful, tap into your innate confidence, even if public speaking is enough to make you run and hide. Tell yourself you can do it. Chances are if you exude confidence (even if it’s forced or unnatural at first), people will believe you are competent.[4]
Speak loudly and clearly and act as if you are fully confident in your abilities.
The opposite is true, too. If you go into a presentation feeling fearful, lots of things can give away your fear, such as shaky voice, lack of eye contact, acting flustered, etc.

Adjust your body language. If you’re closed off, looking down, or crossing your arms/legs, people may assume you are unapproachable. People with proper posture report higher levels of positive mood and self-esteem than slouchers.[5] Changing your body language can help your mind believe that you are confident.
Practice puffing your shoulders out (as a way to appear/feel bigger) or putting your hands on your hips.
Practice doing triumphant poses, such as pumping your fist in the air before a nerve-racking situation.[6]

Relax. Relaxation can help calm any anxiety you may be feeling and can help you feel more at ease. If you are feeling tense, restless, or unhappy, try some relaxation techniques to help you feel more balanced. This can be especially helpful before a big presentation or something that makes you feel anxious.[7]
Slow your breathing and start counting your breaths, 4 seconds inhale, then 4 seconds exhale. Once this feels easy, extend to 6-second intervals, observing your breath moving in and out of your body.
Use muscle relaxation to soften tense muscles. You can do progressive muscle relaxation, which focuses on different parts of your body at a time, releasing any tension you feel. Start with your toes, then work on muscle groups through your legs, hips, stomach, chest, arms, shoulders, and neck.[8]

Part 2
Part 2 of 2:
Acting Happy

Use perspective. Some situations you have to get through and act natural, even if you feel unnatural. Think about how the way you look will affect your future.[9] If you are meeting your long-term partner’s parents for the first time and are not feeling well, it’s a good opportunity to use some perspective and make a likable impression. Yet, realize that not every situation is important to look or act your best. Recognize when you have the choice to leave a situation or whether you must go through with something due to circumstance.[10]
If you’ve just broken your leg, you don’t need to pretend to be happy. You are in pain! The same is true if you’ve experienced a difficult situation, like the loss of a sibling or grandparent. It’s okay to feel sad.

Change your attitude. Changing your attitude can be especially important before an unpleasant event. Take a moment and find new ways to re-think negative thoughts, and try to find some positive aspects to reflect upon. You may be stuck in a negative thought cycle and need an overhaul to help you feel more positive. Reflect on what kind of attitude you are bringing into a situation and whether it is in your best interest.[11] Changing your attitude can help you feel happy long enough to get through a difficult situation.
If you have to go to an event you’re not looking forward to, adjust your attitude. Remember that these events don’t happen frequently, and you can get through it, even if you anticipate it being unpleasant. You may meet someone interesting, enjoy some good food, or be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.
Acknowledge the potential positives that can come from the event, and give less precedence to the potential negatives.
For more information check out How to Change a Negative Attitude.

Engage in self-talk. If you’re struggling to look or feel happy, chances are you may be experiencing negative thoughts. Self-talk helps you

to shift the focus from your negative or unhelpful thoughts onto calming yourself so you can feel more at ease.[12] This can help you get through an unpleasant situation more easily and help you appear happier, even if you feel miserable.[13] Some examples of self-talk:
“I may not feel well, but I can still do a good job”
“This is an uncomfortable situation right now, but I know I can head home immediately afterward to deal with it”
“I am here to enjoy myself”

Cultivate gratitude. If you’re struggling to even pretend to be happy, find things to be grateful for in your life. Grateful people report higher levels of health and happiness, such as better sleep, increased empathy, and improved self-esteem.[14] Find things to look forward to and be thankful for the small stuff: a roof over your head, a nice day, a good friend, anything! You may even begin to feel happier, not just act happier.[15]
List 5 things that bring you joy or fulfillment in your life. It can be as simple as waking up to no dishes in the sink. Then, think of a situation that made you feel upset or frustrated, and describe it in writing. Afterward, think of three things that help you appreciate the difficult situation. Perhaps you ran late for work because you had to fill up your gas tank, but got the opportunity to buy your favorite coffee. Your workplace is understanding about being late occasionally. Reflect whether or not you will remember this even in a week, or two, or five.[16]

Allow people to support you. Strengthen your friendships and work on your social skills. Don’t isolate yourself in a time of need, reach out! Talk to people every day, and get some human contact to make you feel better. Even if it takes some force, make yourself socialize with the people you care about, and remember that they care about you, too.[17] Acting happy can be a lot easier when surrounded by friends.
If you tend to isolate, realize that this can lead to or contribute to feelings of depression. Social contact is an important part of life.[18]
Especially if you are struggling with a situation, make sure you have people you can lean on and talk to when you get the chance.

Seek help. If you find yourself always trying to look and act happy when you don’t feel happy, seek out professional help. There’s no use trying to look and act happy when you don’t feel a source of happiness within you.
If you feel chronically unhappy, you may suffer from depression. For more information, see How to Know if You Have Depression and How to Deal with Depression.
If you need help finding a therapist, check out How to Choose a Therapist.


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Joy Chinonyerem

Joy Chinonyerem is an ardent follower of Christ who believes in Living the Christian Life according to the tenets set by Christ himself. She is passionate about Walking by Faith, as commanded by the scriptures and uses her blog, Walking By Faith Blog, to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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