Don’t forget to smile

It’s the beginning of a week off. It’s not really a week off. As a grad student, the work never really stops. I’ve got some statistical analyses I have to figure out how to do, an article to write, a conference poster to design, ethics to respond to, students to supervise, literature to read, plus everything that I’m forgetting. At least for march break the university quiets down and my supervisor goes away giving me a chance to catch up on my to-do list. I don’t have to be at the university this week. No long commute, hooray!

It’s more than the commute though. I guess I have a bit of social anxiety. I don’t have to talk to anyone, I don’t have to look good, I don’t have to be judged, I don’t have to put on a happy face. The happy face part is the most exhausting. I have to remember to smile. It doesn’t come naturally to me. It never has. As a kid, one of my teachers called me “Smiley” because I never smiled. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have “resting b*tch face” as my wedding photographer so eloquently put it. “Resting b*tch face” is when your face relaxes into a scowl. That’s just the way some people are at rest, they can’t help it. That’s not me, I look like a “nice” person. I hate the word “nice”. That’ll be a rant for another day though. I’ve been told I just look a little sad or a little serious. If I forget about the smiling thing for too long people start to ask questions and I’d just rather not get into it. What am I supposed to say? The Truth? People can’t handle the truth. So I wear my smile to ward them off.

“Just smile, you’ll feel better.” If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that…. They mean well, I know, but, it annoys me. Apparently it works though, it has actually been confirmed by research. Pyschological Science published a study on how smiling can reduce stress levels. Even Mother Teresa said “Peace begins with a smile.” I wonder if she meant to cover inner peace with that statement too. Scientific American says that facial expressions reflect how we feel, but that causality can work in the opposite direction too. Emotions can be reinforced and perhaps driven by facial expression.  (

I’m not one to dispute research, but I’m skeptical. It has never worked for me. Forcing a smile has just made me tired. Does it work for you?

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