Three Surprising Facts About Happiness

If you're stuck in a bad mood, anxious and ruminating or simply feel that your emotions are beyond your control, these 3 surprising facts might give you one or two strategies to try to alter some of those negative feelings and keep positive feelings around.

1. Happiness is Contagious. Like a cold, happiness can be caught from the people around you. According to a 2008 study in the British Medical Journal, people who were surrounded by many happy people were more likely to become happy in the future. In fact, happiness extended as much as 3 degrees of separation. If you want to improve your own mood, look at the network of people you surround yourself with. It may be in your own best interest to seek out those friends and acquaintances who are happy.

2. Smiling actually does make you feel happy. Nothing is more annoying than the stranger that tells you to "smile." They might be well meaning, but when you're stressed, sad or anxious, often the last thing you feel like doing is smiling. However, a 1998 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that facial expressions do effect mood. Participants in the study who matched positive facial expressions had a corresponding positive change in mood. Pay attention to the expression on your face. If you're feeling tense or sad, allow yourself a relaxed smile now and then. Try a half smile. Ease the muscles of the face and slightly turn up the corners of the mouth and see if, with some time, your mood improves.

3. Emotions last only a few seconds. If you've ever been stuck in a bad mood for days on end, this might sound unlikely. But the reality is that each emotion we experience lasts only a few seconds. A bad mood that goes on for days is the result of the same emotions being triggered over and over. The most likely trigger: our thoughts. So pay attention to what you're thinking if you're continually anxious and on edge or are stuck in sadness or anger. Are you re-triggering the emotion by continually thinking about what originally made you anxious, sad or angry?

Emotions are complex and full of surprising. The more you understand about how your emotions function, the better you will be at getting out of the negatives and catching those happy vibes.