How to Fake a Smile When You're Miserable

It's all about celebrating the little things.


By Eric Barker

You don’t celebrate enough.

I’m not talking about just having fun for the sake of having fun. Plenty of scientific research shows that celebrating is the key to a better life.

We need more high-fives, more parties, more chocolate consumption, and a lot more saying, “Wow, that’s great!”

Sound too simple and cheery? Wrong. Here’s why…


Are you trying to fix things in your romantic relationship so it will last? Stop right now. Why? Because you have it *backwards.

Studies show divorce isn’t usually caused by an increase in problems. It’s often caused by a decrease in positive feelings.

Want to predict who has a happy relationship? Don’t look at how they fight — look at how they celebrate.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Shelly Gable, professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has demonstrated that how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight.

Want a better relationship? Spend more time celebrating the good things.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Research shows that couples who regularly celebrate the good times have higher levels of commitment, intimacy, trust, and relationship satisfaction… It’s not enough that your partner knows that you take pride in his or her accomplishments. You have to show it. Making a fuss over the small, good things that happen every day can boost the health of your marriage.

And romantic relationships aren’t the only ones that need celebrating. When I spoke to Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence, she said:

People in romantic relationships always celebrate anniversaries, yet you might have a friend for 15 years and you’ve probably never gone out to dinner and raised a glass to that. We need to cherish our friendships more.

(To learn an FBI behavior expert’s secrets for getting people to like you, click here.)

Okay, it’s easy to understand how celebrating more often might help relationships — but do we need more celebrating at work? Oh yeah…


Harvard professor Teresa Amabile found seven factors that made companies more productive and employees happier. Wanna guess what one of them was? You’re probably already ahead of me…

From The Progress Principle:

Our participants’ thoughts, feelings, and drives fared better when successes, even small ones, were celebrated and then analyzed for knowledge gained…

Want your team at work to be more successful? Let’s look at the research on sports teams for a sec. What predicts more wins on the field? Whether players celebrate with their teammates:

“The more convincingly someone celebrates their success with their teammates, the greater the chances that team will win,” according to Dr. Gert-Jan Pepping, Sport Scientist and lecturer in Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen…

I know, doing an end zone dance is not appropriate in the conference room. But there’s no excuse for not giving more fist bumps, high fives, chest bumps, and half hugs.

And research shows those little celebratory touches make a big difference.

Via Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior:

…a 2010 study by a group of researchers in Berkeley found a case in which a habit of congratulatory slaps to the skull really is associated with successful group interactions. The Berkeley researchers studied the sport of basketball, which both requires extensive second-by-second teamwork and is known for its elaborate language of touching. They found that the number of “fist bumps, high fives, chest bumps, leaping shoulder bumps, chest punches, head slaps, head grabs, low fives, high tens, half hugs, and team huddles” correlated significantly with the degree of cooperation among teammates, such as passing to those who are less closely defended, helping others escape defensive pressure by setting what are called “screens,” and otherwise displaying a reliance on a teammate at the expense of one’s own individual performance. The teams that touched the most cooperated the most, and won the most.

(To learn what Harvard research says will make you more successful and happier, click here.)

Alright, celebrating helps your personal life and your professional life. What about your internal life? You know, that little thing called happiness…


We spend an awful lot of time running around grabbing for things to make us happy. That’s not terribly efficient. You’d be smarter to spend more time appreciating the good things you already have.

Gratitude and savoring have been extensively researched and both are powerful happiness boosters. And you don’t have to get out of bed to engage in them. It’s all about where you put your attention.

From Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth:

The key component to effective savoring is focused attention. By taking the time and spending the effort to appreciate the positive, people are able to experience more well-being.

And when you feel gratitude or savor something wonderful in life, express it. Say something or do something to show how you feel. Quite simply, celebrate it.

The fancy term researchers use is “Behavioral Expression.” That’s PhD speak for shouting, “Hooray!” Sound corny? Perhaps… but it works.

Via Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience:

This purely behavioral response represents an outward physical manifestation of inner feelings in which one expresses an energetic response of exuberant joy, excitement, and enthusiasm by jumping up and down, dancing around, laughing out loud, or making verbal sounds of appreciation. Such responses or their inhibition may be purely reflexive or automatic, or may be deliberate.

Letting those good feelings out multiplies the good feelings.

(To learn the four rituals neuroscience research says will make you happy, click here.)

Relationships, work and happiness: celebrating has some serious power. Now how are you going to get the motivation to make these changes? By more celebrating, of course…


What’s key to creating good habits and achieving your goals?

Eating chocolate. I’m serious as a heart attack.

When I spoke to Charles Duhigg, author of the bestseller The Power of Habit, he told me that if you add a little celebratory reward after engaging in a good habit you want to build, it’s a powerful reinforcer.

Did you go running this morning and want to make sure you go again tomorrow? He suggests treating yourself to a little bit of chocolate after today’s run. Here’s Charles:

The research shows that every habit has three components. There’s the cue, which is a trigger for an automatic behavior to start. Then, a routine, which is the behavior itself. Finally, a reward. The reward is really important because that’s how your brain essentially learns to latch onto a particular pattern and make it automatic. Chocolate, after running, is an obvious example of a reward that many people enjoy. It doesn’t have to be chocolate. What matters is that if you want to make a behavior into a habit, you need to give yourself something you enjoy as soon as that behavior is done.

Sound too simple to be effective? Wrong. Little celebrations for small accomplishments make a huge difference in motivation for even the toughest tasks.

As bestselling author Dan Pink explains, the research on motivation is clear: “small wins” are a big deal. Taking a moment to be happy about the little good things that happen is far more motivating than thinking you need to win that Nobel Prize or Academy Award before you’re allowed to feel satisfied.

And this works with the toughest challenges. How tough?

Appreciating the small fleeting victories is what former Navy SEAL Platoon Commander James Waters says is key to getting through seemingly impossible challenges like Navy SEAL “Hell Week”:

When you’re at BUD/S, it’s the small victories that matter. Let’s say you made it through a two and a half hour long PT session. You throw that log down, get together with your class, and go run a mile to dinner. That’s a small victory. It feels good. You sit down, have a nice meal, and feel like everything’s great. Then as soon as dinner is done, the instructors see you and say, “Go get wet and sandy.” They torture you again and you’re back down into the muck. BUD/S is a constant cycle of peaks and valleys. Even your brightest moments are constantly transformed into bad ones. When you finish Hell Week you feel like you’re on top of the world until you realize you still have nearly a year of training left to go. But you’ve got to be able to accept these peaks and valleys, these small victories and recognize that, yes, so many things are bad but they do have a start and an end.

(To learn the secrets of how to motivate yourself and others, from expert Dan Pink, click here.)

Are you doing any party planning yet? Let’s round up the info and learn how small celebrations can lead to you looking at your entire life in a more positive light…

Sum Up

Here’s how celebration is the most fun way to improve every area of your life:

Relationships: Stop trying to fix the bad and focus on relishing the good. That’s what makes marriages last.

Work: Celebrating success makes companies happier and more productive. The world needs more fist bumps.

Happiness: Focus on the good things, savor them and then let that joy out. Happiness expressed is double happiness.

Motivation: Celebratory rewards build good habits. If they get Navy SEALs through “Hell Week” they’ll get you through most anything.

Want to look back on your life and feel great about it? Then end more moments with a celebration. Is this another silly trick from the internet? Nope. This tip comes from a Nobel Prize winner…

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, has shown that your brain consistently remembers only two things about an event: the emotional peak and the ending.

Via The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less:

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown that what we remember about the pleasurable quality of our past experiences is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experiences felt when they were at their peak (best or worst), and how they felt when they ended. This “peak-end” rule of Kahneman’s is what we use to summarize the experience, and then we rely on that summary later to remind ourselves of how the experience felt.

Your brain is not a perfect computer. What you will remember is not the same as what happened. But you can game it so your memories are better than what happened.

What does it take to fool your brain into looking back on your life with joy and pride, my fellow tricksters? If you make sure to always end happy times or tough challenges with a little celebration, you already have half of what it takes to make great memories.

If you have a head full of happy memories, it’s hard not to feel like you have an amazing life.

And an amazing life is something worth celebrating. So go celebrate.

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Related posts:

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

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How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

By Eric Barker. This article was originally posted to Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Read the Original article here.

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