The Myth of Happiness

Have you ever been told  “It takes more muscles to frown than to smile”? The Mythographer sure has.  The implication is: You’re working too hard! Being happy is easy; you should try it! This sounds like a provable fact, but according to, it’s just a nifty aphorism that some call a Zen saying, others a scientific survey. The number of muscles involved varies from 17 to 53.  It made me think of  cheerleaders, Disney movies, and posters of kittens “hanging in there,” and all the other reminders of forced cheerfulness that tormented me as a depressed high school student.  But I’ve reconsidered.While it may not be literally true that it takes less effort to smile than to frown, it is figuratively true: we often work hard to  make ourselves miserable.  Slate has a fascinating ongoing project charting scientific research about happiness.  And so far they’ve found out that, scientifically speaking, many of the things we tell ourselves about happiness are completely mythical, including “Happy people are annoying and stupid,” Money can’t buy happiness,” and the big doozy: “It’s selfish to try to be happy.”  Compared to the damage these myths have done to our own pursuit of happiness, maybe one little fake fact about facial muscles is not the worst thing in the world. What do you think?

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