Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Smile, what's the use in crying?

I have one of those faces that never looks happy. My mouth naturally turns down, so I always look as though I'm pouting or scowling. Those people who say it takes fewer muscles to smile have no idea what they're talking about.

As a result, I often find myself confronted by complete strangers who feel compelled to say "Smile, it might never happen." And I have to fight my own compulsion to tell them to fuck off. If they want my smile, they can try earning it, rather than just pointing out that I look miserable.

But according to a new study, maybe my dour expression is a self-preservation thing, since it might mean that I'll live longer than my more chipper contemporaries. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have conducted a 20-year study called the 'Longevity Project' which found that "participants who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humor as kids lived shorter lives, on average, than those who were less cheerful and joking." So this frown won't be turning upside down anytime soon.

According to the team's findings, happy-go-lucky kids tend to take more risks; suggesting that their joie-de-vivre makes them dance into oncoming traffic, or reach into bear-traps thinking that they've happened upon a free steak dinner. Apparently, assuming that "everything will be just fine" is tantamount to having a death wish, since it makes you careless and irresponsible. So now we know the real reason why Pollyanna fell out of that tree.

This also explains why old people tend to be curmudgeonly - they know that deep down, it's their bitterness and irritation with the state of the world that's keeping them alive. Suddenly, David Cameron's plans for a Happiness Index don't seem quite so ridiculous. It might be the best way of estimating the extent to which the British population is going to continue aging, helping them to determine the likely impact on public healthcare costs.

So next time you open the paper and find yourself facing page after page of bad news, don't worry, it's all for the best. Feel free to relish the fact that disaster is just around the corner. Just try not to look too happy about it.

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