Happiness Secrets and the Study of Natural and Synthetic Happiness

Are you a people watcher? If you’re a writer, you are. I am, and I’ve noticed something disturbing.

At least once a week I leave our quiet rural roads where we all smile and wave to one another, even if we don’t know the person. Then I drive fifty miles into the insaneness of city traffic to shop, keep appointments, or meet friends.

I watch faces of people in their cars, at bus stops, or walking down the sidewalk. Almost no one smiles.  What’s that about? Go on, check it out for yourself.

Is this anger stemming from the  economy, or preoccupation, or just the complexity of daily living? What’s the root of this pervasive gloom on people’s faces?

That’s why io9, a favorite little website, caught my attention with its post 6 Possible Secrets to Happiness, According to Science on Monday, January 28, 2013.

“According to Science” is what hooked me. This is what I learned.

Evidently, your emotions are controlled by what you choose to wear on your face:

Now this study will help to make you smile: When women were injected with cosmetic botox that inhibited their ability to frown, the recipients reported even though they didn’t feel more attractive they did feel happier.  (This study was conducted by psychologists at the University of Wales.)

A twenty year longitudinal investigation at Framingham Heart Study found that happiness is “like an emotional contagion”. Sadness doesn’t have this power.  Remember that old saying: “When you smile the whole world smiles with you, when you cry, you cry alone.” So, should everyone get botox?

 i09’s six happy secrets simplified:

1 Be with happy people, 2 Master something, 3 Be true to who you are, 4 Smile, 5 Get therapy if you need it, 6 Don’t try so hard to be happy.  Number 6 means enjoy the moment, enjoy the people, savor the processes, but remember to put your smile out there.

Sometimes choices you make, make you unhappy, but then if you don’t get what you want, you may be even happier:


Well, when you’ve shopped around looking for the best buy before you purchased something did you suffer buyer’s remorse afterwards? Maybe you thought the one you didn’t pick was a better deal after all.  But on the happy side, Dr. Dan Gilbert found  no significant difference between happy factors in someone who’d won almost a half a million dollars and someone who became a paraplegic.

Most of us believe we’ll be sad if we don’t get what we want. According to Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert in this TED talk this just isn’t true. He explains about the “psychological immune system” we revert to when we don’t experience natural happiness. His studies show that our own created synthetic happiness, regardless of what you and I think, is not an inferior happiness.

Take a few minutes and watch the TED talk, then for fun take Oprah’s quick happiness quiz.

For all of you writers, does Dr. Gilbert’s talk give you inspiration drop your unfortunate characters into the depths of despair, and then drag them screaming and kicking into their new world of synthetic happiness?

I’d enjoy your comments below. Click on the right to follow.

About Char of inkydancestudios

Writer by nature and for the soul. Educator for life. Artist for love. Passion: All things good and true.
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2 Responses to Happiness Secrets and the Study of Natural and Synthetic Happiness

  1. M2 says:

    2 Master something

    Admittedly, I did not even look at io9’s 6 secrets…apathy mastered! See where I’m going with this? Perhaps this “simplified” number 2 (pun intended) version is your own or theirs, I don’t know, but I believe this overused alternative to possessing significant skills could be a major cause of depression in many if not most of those who endlessly toil to be a master at something but believe they never really make it. For example, who has mastered parenthood? There are those who believe they have, when they really haven’t, and of course, those who have but believe they haven’t. Still not following? There are those who are extremely good at producing art, but they will never be called a “master.” Same with golf, athletics, business, finance, inventions, medicine, birthing a country…it’s endless. You can now remove my soapbox. 🙂


    • Hi Mike!

      No, I’m not removing your soapbox. You love to make people think–that’s what you’re trying to “master”. And because of your honesty in not looking at i09s “6 Secrets to Happiness”, I’m helping you out here. My next post will happily address happiness one more time!

      I’m not accepting your intentional pun because I disagree with you. The i09 article is throwing out a help line for creating long-term happiness. Its main message is to dedicate one’s self to mastering a skill or ability whether it’s ever mastered or not. We both know that someone’s out there who can always beat us at our own selected games. Yea! If they didn’t we might never improve.

      Your example of parenting is a good one. Most parents raise their children the same way they were parented. This may work for a lucky few who had excellent parents thus making them look like they’ve “mastered” this skill to others. However, most parents struggle with this important task. Let me ask you this, how many frustrated parents do you know who try to be the best parents ever but haven’t bothered to research, learn new parenting skills, practiced those skills, and reevaluated how the new skills were working? I don’t know of many. But I do know if it isn’t working, then the parenting practice needs to change. Informed effort is the basis for any movement toward true mastery.

      Mastery is a journey, in my words. The i09 article simply says the stress of the effort to learn pays off by the happiness found in your newly acquired knowledge or ability.

      Thanks so for stopping by and giving me fodder for another article on happiness. 🙂


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