Why is This Woman Smiling?

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I smile a lot….and why wouldn’t I?   This is what the front of our house looks like this morning!

spring flowers caruthers

I have SO much for which to be thankful!    I also attribute my propensity toward smiling to my habit of thinking positive thoughts. I’m totally in love and have a great life. I have great friends and, in fact, haven’t lost a single one of them in years and years.

I feel good most of the time, do a lot of interesting things and just have a lot to be thankful for and happy about. …but does my smile have anything to do with why I’m happy?  Am I happy BECAUSE I smile?

stacysmiles

A new study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University suggests that customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a French vacation or a child’s hug- improve their mood and withdraw less.

“Employers may believe that simply getting their employees to smile is good for the organization, but that’s not necessarily the case,” said one of the researchers  “Smiling for the sake of smiling can lead to emotional exhaustion and withdrawal, and that’s bad for the organization.  Smiling for a reason is different.”

For the study, which appears in the February issue of the Academy of Management Journal, two researchers studied a group of city bus drivers during a two-week period. They examined the effects of surface acting, or fake smiling, and deep acting, or cultivating positive emotions by recalling pleasant memories or thinking about the current situation in a more favorable way.

The study is one of the first of its kind to examine emotional displays over a period of time while also delving into gender differences, one researcher stated,  “The results were stronger for the women bus drivers.”

“Women were harmed more by surface acting, meaning their mood worsened even more than the men and they withdrew more from work. But they were helped more by deep acting, meaning their mood improved more and they withdrew less.”

While the study didn’t explore the reasons behind these differences, one researcher notes that previous research suggests women are both expected to and do show greater emotional intensity and positive emotional expressiveness than men. Thus, faking a smile while still feeling negative emotion conflicts with this cultural norm and may cause even more harmful feelings in women, he said, while changing internal feelings by deep acting would gel with the norm and may improve mood even more.

But while deep acting seemed to improve mood in the short-term,  that finding comes with a caveat.

“There have been some suggestions that if you do this over a long period that you start to feel inauthentic,”  “Yes, you’re trying to cultivate positive emotions, but at the end of the day you may not feel like yourself anymore….unless your smile is accompanied by positive thoughts.”

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