A few weeks ago in a therapy session my awesome lady mentioned a study she recently came across in regards to smiling, happiness, and stress. The original article, Right Kind of Smile May Reduce Stress, describes a study involving 169 participants, as described below. The basic premise is, your brain doesn’t know if you are truly happy or ‘faking it’…
Participants were instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths in such a way that they engaged facial muscles used to create a neutral facial expression, a standard smile, or a Duchenne smile.
Chopsticks were essential to the task because they forced people to smile without them being aware that they were doing so: only half of the group members were actually instructed to smile.
In the testing phase, participants were asked to work on multitasking activities. However, the participants didn’t know that the multitasking activities were designed to be stressful.
During the stressful tasks, participants held the chopsticks in their mouth just as they were taught in training. The researchers measured participants’ heart rates and self-reported stress levels throughout the testing phase.
Researchers found that compared to participants who held neutral facial expressions, participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those with Duchenne smiles, had lower heart rate levels after recovery from the stressful activities.
The participants who held chopsticks in a manner that forced them to smile, but were not explicitly told to smile as part of the training, also reported a smaller decrease in positive affect compared to those who held neutral facial expressions.
Overall researchers believe the findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.
I also found a list of the benefits of smiling:
- Makes Us Attractive to others.
- Changes Mood
- Relieves Stress
- Boosts Immune System
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Releases Endorphins and Serotonin