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Can Fake Happiness Lead You to the Real Thing?


Years ago, I was facilitating a workshop, and a small group of the participants came up to me during the break. As we were chatting, one of the women asked about my perfume. 

“I love your perfume! What is it?”

“It’s Happy,” I replied. “Well, fake Happy.”

They thought that was one of the funniest things they’d ever heard. 

I didn’t have the money for the real thing from a department store, so I went to my local drugstore and bought the inexpensive knockoff. It was called something like All Smiles or Just Like Happy, But It’s Not. 

I loved the scent, and it made me, well, happy. I didn’t care that it was fake when it made me feel the real thing. 

What Happens When You Put on Fake Happy? 

You may not have the fake Happy perfume sitting on your dresser, but you can easily pump up your happiness and reap the rewards. 


Smile. Even if you don’t feel like smiling. Come on. Give those corners of your mouth a lift. Hold it. Yup. There’s some fake happy for you. No run to the big box store required. 

A funny thing happens when you put on a smile even when you don’t particularly feel like smiling. It lifts your mood, has numerous health benefits, and has been shown toreduce stress too. The smiling may feel a little fake, but it mimics the effects of happiness in your body. To your brain, it’s not fake happiness you’re feeling, it’s the real deal.

Research has proven that our facial expressions communicate to our brains much like our brains communicate with our faces to express our emotions. It’s a two-way street. When we smile, it not only signals to others how we’re feeling but also to ourselves. 

Much like when I put on a spritz of my fake happy all those years ago, your smile does three things:

  1. Mimics the real thing
  2. Lifts you like the real thing
  3. Sends others your scent (or in the case of a smile, a feeling) like the real thing

Related: Nine Excuses for Not Leading Morale and One Overarching Truth

Can You Fake Happiness? 

Maybe not, but you can feel happier. Smiling is not the same thing as telling people life’s “all good” when it’s not. Choosing to smile is not a lie, it’s a signal that impacts how you feel and experience the world around you. When you put a smile on your face, it alerts your neural network that it’s time for some dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Yes. Feels good… or at least better.

No matter how stupid you feel with your fake smile, as if it’s supposed to give you some magic fake happiness, do it. Choose to smile even when you don’t feel like it. The benefits of smiling are significant. Also, it may start as forced but transform into one you’re feeling before you know it.

As Annie would tell us, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

However, if you’re struggling to feel happiness, it may take more than a smile to help turn things around. Reach out to a professional to help you. There’s no reason to struggle alone.

Break the Frame Action

What Makes You Smile?

Perfume in the morning?

Watching your favorite sitcom?

Hanging out with your kids?

Looking around your house after it’s cleaned?

Finishing a great workout at the gym?

A phone call to Mom?

Find time every day to not only plaster on a fako-bako smile but for the things that make your eyes crinkle and a glimmer of happiness fill you from head to toe. You won’t regret it. 

Today, after I got home from the gym and took my shower, I put on some of the real Happy and a smile to go with it. 

Did You Know?

The reason photographers say “Say Cheese!” when they take your picture is it helps your face move into the position of a smile. Some people argue that an even more natural smile emerges when you say “Money.” No judgment which one you may pick. If it helps you, say it!

Have you ever plastered on a smile? What was the impact? (bet it wasn’t fake happiness)

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