Fake it til you make it

How putting on a friendly facade can actually make you feel genuinely good

Thirteen years ago I returned home from college after my freshman year, determined to find a fun summer job. I’d looked for barista work in New York City, but the manager at each café I visited gently (or—let’s be honest—sometimes not so gently!) told me that there was no chance I’d be hired without café experience, let along NYC café experience.

So, despite my wanting to work in a hip, indie coffee shop in Greenwich Village, I knew my best bet would be to get hired at a national chain in Georgia during the summer and then transfer to a store in NYC.

Off I went to Starbucks, where I was hired and got the hang of making drinks fairly quickly. Several days a week I worked at the popular coffee shop, slinging drinks and getting to the point where I recognized customers. I was a couple months into the job when I realized I was very often in a good, social mood. And it took a few more days after that to realize why.

I was in a good mood because I had to be. Granted, I’m often in a fairly pleasant humor, but working at a coffee shop it behooves you to provide good, friendly customer service. So even on days when I walked into work feeling blasé, I had to act happy and approachable. And—what do you know?—soon I started to feel genuinely happy and approachable.

Years have passed since that first of three coffee shop jobs, and I’m now running my own shop. Before opening my store, I worked mostly at home for several years. True that I nannied and tutored and went out into the world now and again, but for the most part I worked alone in my home, not interacting with people at all some days. I can’t say I was in a bad mood all that often, but I can say that my outlook on life has brightened significantly since opening the store and seeing many people each day.

This afternoon I walked from the bookshop to the post office and then to the bank. I caught myself automatically saying, “Good afternoon!” (our bookstore greeting) to passers-by, most of whom smiled back and said hello. At long last I realized yet again that much of my happiness is due to my deliberately sunny perspective. Even on days when I wake up sniffly with a cold and want to stay in bed all day, I end up having fun talking to customers and working with books.

And feeling happy and positive of course has a great impact on my stress levels. Being in a naturally good mood helps me temper the stresses of business ownership and the day-to-day frustrations I face, not to mention that ever-growing to-do list! And having better control of my reactions to stressful situations and working from a healthier, calmer baseline means fewer stress-triggered migraines.

So maybe you should try the whole “fake it til you make it” approach with your mood. See if it helps you improve your attitude and improve your migraine frequency as it did me.

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