Ever flashed a fake smile at someone at work before? We thought so. Whether it be to suppress your inner unhappiness or to avoid confrontation with that annoying coworker, we’re all guilty of shooting off a fake smile here and there. And while the act of smiling (albeit, genuine or forced) is the universal signifier of positivity, as it turns out, that coerced smile is actually doing more harm than good.
If you're someone whose profession requires interaction with the public, then listen up. A study conducted by the Pennsylvania State University analysed the drinking habits of 1,592 service workers including nurses, teachers, and individuals who work in the food industry.
The research demonstrated that, in fact, forcing oneself to outwardly portray a positive persona can lead to emotional and mental exhaustion, wherein individuals who work in the public sector are more likely to consume higher amounts of alcohol compared to those who don't.
"Faking and suppressing emotions with customers was related to drinking beyond the stress of the job or feeling negatively," says Alicia Grandey, head professor of psychology at Penn State. "It wasn't just feeling badly that makes them reach for a drink. Instead, the more they have to control negative emotions at work, the less they are able to control their alcohol intake after work."
Grandey explained that previous research had identified a correlation between service workers and excessive alcohol consumption, yet the reason for this was unascertained. She believes by suppressing emotions workers are cultivating much of their self-control and thus leaving less to regulate how much they drink.
"Smiling as part of your job sounds like a really positive thing, but doing it all day can be draining," Grandey said. "In these jobs, there's also often money tied to showing positive emotions and holding back negative feelings. Money gives you a motivation to override your natural tendencies, but doing it all day can be wearing."
So next time you find yourself picking up that wine glass after a long day, this might explain why.