Is it Possible to Fake Your Way to Happy?

Aug 29, 2015 by

“You are what you think.”

– Buddha

 

          Two Sundays ago, I saw a question on the cover of an issue of Chatelaine: “Is it possible to fake your way to happy?” I stared at it while eating from a bowl of grapes, contemplating my answer. Though interested, I didn’t open the magazine to read the corresponding article. I wanted to form my own opinion. It’s taken me a while to come to it because I didn’t like the magazine’s use of the word fake. I don’t like the idea of faking anything. I value authenticity, so I don’t like messaging that suggests people present themselves as they are not. That’s the kind of idea that leads to stigma around common issues like depression and anxiety.

          That felt weird to write. I have personal experience with both, yet that felt weird to write. Unfortunately, depression and anxiety aren’t often described as “common issues.” Because they still carry a reputation of shame in our society, people hide them by faking happiness, making mental health issues seem less prevalent than they really are. Do you see my problem with faking happy?

          In all fairness, I didn’t read the article, so I don’t know the writer’s angle. He or she probably wasn’t encouraging people to fake happiness for others. Based on my perception of the question alone, it seemed to me that the article would have analyzed whether or not people can fake happiness to themselves, whether or not people can make themselves believe they are happy by telling themselves that they are. Assuming that’s the case, I’m going to sub the word fake with think: Is it possible to think your way to happy? Regardless of semantics, the question is about perception: Can unhappy people bring happiness upon themselves by choosing to perceive themselves as happy?

          Yes.

          Absolutely yes.

          Your mind is your reality. You can make yourself believe anything. With repeated self-messaging, you can boost your confidence, your optimism, and your happiness. If you tell yourself day after day that you are happy, you will begin to believe it. Not simply because you’re saying so, but because your mind will look for facts to back it, causing your thoughts to focus on the positive. The same logic is applicable to telling yourself that you’re unhappy: your mind will scan your memory for examples of unhappiness to prove it, focusing on the negative, thereby perpetuating sadness.

          In addition to using past events to support our beliefs, we seek out ways to uphold them. Thus, if you choose to believe you are happy, you will do what makes you happy in order to make that belief true. It’s self-fulfilling prophecy: when you expect happiness, you act happy, making you actually happy.

 
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