9 warning signs you’re pretending to be happy (and what to do)

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Ever had that nagging feeling that something’s off, but you can’t quite put your finger on it? You smile, laugh, and say you’re good, but deep down, you’re not entirely sure

I’ve been there, and it’s no picnic in the park. Forcing yourself to put up a happy front is incredibly exhausting, and before you know it, you’re completely down in the dumps, unable to get out of bed. 

But – there are some warning signs you’re in a downward spiral, and it’s important to recognize them right away. 

In this article, I’ll lay out those signs and what you can do about them. Hopefully, they’ll help you turn that frown upside down and live life with real joy once more. 

1) You’re faking smiles

I’ll start with the obvious – you’re going around beaming with those pearly whites, but it’s a smile that doesn’t quite reach the eyes. Or even if you know how to give a really convincing smile, it’s gone as soon as you turn around. 

The verbal version of this would be the classic “I’m fine” when you’re actually feeling like a hot mess inside. 

What to do: 

Start by asking yourself why you’re putting up a show. Are you trying to keep up appearances? Avoid confrontation? 

Whatever the reason, address it head-on. Open up to a trusted friend or family member. I know it’s hard to be vulnerable, but no burden is worth carrying alone, and once you share, you’ll feel loads lighter. 

2) You’re living life for the ‘Gram

Ah, here’s another example of fakery. Do you find yourself constantly curating the perfect life on social media instead of actually enjoying it?

Too many people nowadays live life for the purpose of sharing it online. And they share only the good stuff, never the not-so-good ones! 

Look, sharing online is okay, as long as you’re doing it out of a sincere desire to connect with others. But if you’re doing it just for the likes, the hearts, the starry eyes…it might be time for a reality check. 

A literal reality check, as in, is your reality getting you so down that you have to go to great lengths to pretend? 

And consider this – that endless curating and capturing of moments isn’t really making you as happy as you think. It’s actually making you less happy because you’re not focused on enjoying the moment. 

What to do: 

Take a break from social media. When it has become a source of validation, it no longer serves you the way it should. Put your phone down and engage with the world around you. 

Believe me, it’s hard at first but it’s truly liberating! 

3) You’re on autopilot 

Oh, I know this one so well. I’ve found myself in this predicament so many times over the years that it has become the sign I recognize most. 

Does this sound familiar to you – you wake up, go to work, do your job, come home, go to bed…all while feeling disinterested? 

Then you’re on autopilot, my friend. And I know how that can make it look like you’ve got it all together. 

Because as long as we do the things we’re supposed to do, as long as we’re moving, people will think we’re okay.

The problem is, too much living on autopilot does not end well. There have been many cases of people with smiling depression – on the surface, they seem all right. They go to work, do their jobs and may even have an active lifestyle. 

But this is actually more dangerous than typical depression because of the exhaustive nature of masking unhappiness in these automatic actions day after day.

What to do: 

Practice mindfulness. I can’t emphasize this enough. Mindfulness makes you more aware of how you think and feel, helping you be more connected to your life. 

Aside from that, think about how you can shake up your routine. Maybe you need new goals to look forward to. Maybe you even need to take a good look at your values and see if your life isn’t aligning with them. That could be the reason why you feel unfulfilled and unhappy

4) You feel constantly drained

This is another sneaky sign that you’re faking happiness. You might be looking okay, doing what you always do, but for some reason, you feel drained all the time. 

Your energy level will always tell you if something’s wrong. Sometimes, even after a good night’s sleep, you could feel exhausted, and that could be because you’re emotionally tired from all the pretending. 

Because when you’re pretending to be happy, it can feel like you’re wearing a mask. Keeping up this charade requires a lot of emotional energy. Over time, you’ll feel drained and burned out, and it becomes so much harder to keep up the act.

What to do: 

Give yourself permission to take a break. You don’t have to be “on” all the time. And be honest with yourself – acknowledge how you truly feel and find out why you feel like that. 

That way, you can take control of your emotions and work towards honest-to-goodness happiness.  

5) You have intense mood swings

What if it’s the opposite? What if instead of feeling drained, you swing from one state to another in a crazy rollercoaster of emotions? One minute you’re all mellow and the next minute you lash out in a fit of rage…

That could very well tell you something’s wrong. Sudden mood swings aren’t normal, so it’s good to take a closer look instead of chalking it down to another bad day. Or a string of bad days!

What to do:

Again, I would recommend a mindfulness practice. When it comes to managing emotions, self-awareness is key. Consider journaling or therapy to explore and process your feelings in a healthy way. 

6) You’re a Negative Nancy

Are you a major complainer? Does your mind immediately jump to the worst when you’re thinking of something? 

Well, in case you don’t know this yet, negativity is always a sign of unhappiness. And when your whole outlook operates from a negative viewpoint, it only means one thing – you aren’t tapping into your happiness bone. 

What to do: 

This might sound cheesy, but practicing gratitude is the best way to beat those negative vibes. Research shows that being grateful rewires our brains and makes us feel more content in life

7) You have sleep issues

Do you have unhealthy sleep patterns? Like you either sleep too much or too little? That could be a sign that you’re unhappy deep inside. 

You see, studies show that sleep and life satisfaction are closely related. And it’s a two-way street – one factor affects the other, and vice-versa. 

So if you’re sleeping too little, you end up feeling less happy. And if you’re feeling less happy, you’ll experience more sleep issues. 

It’s not just about sleeping too little. Sleeping too much, coupled with a low mood, is also a sign of unhappiness

According to sleep psychologist Dr. Drerup, oversleeping could be a form of escape for depressed people.  

What to do: 

Create a consistent sleep routine and explore relaxation techniques to help you sleep better. If necessary, consult a sleep specialist to address any underlying issues.

8) You procrastinate all the time

Procrastination is a tricky thing, simply because we’ve all been guilty of it from time to time. But if you are a constant procrastinator, it could be a sign of something much deeper. 

Here’s the thing: happy people are motivated and excited to do stuff. 

So if you’re always putting things off and lacking drive, it could mean that you’re feeling blah about life.

There could be underlying emotional or psychological issues that keep you from engaging in activities, even those that may have brought you joy in the past. 

 It could be a form of escapism that allows you to avoid confronting the real reasons behind your unhappiness.

What to do: 

Set realistic goals and break them down into smaller tasks. More importantly, be honest with yourself about why you’re procrastinating and tackle those issues head-on. Seek support to address them if needed.

9) You overindulge

I had a friend who would go on shopping sprees almost every week. She’d buy clothes that would only end up in her closet untouched or bags that she’d never really use. 

It got to a point where I got concerned, and I just had to ask her, “Is something going on? Are you okay?”

Turns out, she wasn’t. She’d just been through a miscarriage and didn’t know how to deal with it. She only knew she had to numb the pain. 

So, any sign of overindulging, whether it’s shopping, food, alcohol, or even TV shows…this could all point to a sense of emptiness. They are merely temporary distractions to divert you from the real problem. 

What to do: 

Engage in healthier coping mechanisms, like exercise, meditation, or seeking professional help. Replace harmful habits with more positive ones, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier you.

Final thoughts

These are just some warning signs that you’re pretending to be happy; there are definitely other signs to look out for. The main thing is to be in tune with yourself and notice if you’re not feeling like your usual self. 

Once you recognize these signs, it’s important to address the root causes. Only then can you make the necessary changes to find your authentic happiness.

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