Living In Gratitude: The Science Of Smiling
A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. ~Phyllis Diller
When we are happy, our natural response is to smile. But when we smile, is our natural response to be happy?
Its been scientifically proven that even faking or forcing a smile will minimize stress and makes us happier.
This was what psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman discovered when they had 169 participants produce one of three facial expressions:
- a neutral expression
- a half smile
- a big, ear to ear smile
Only half of participants were told to smile.
Once their expression was ‘in place’, participants did a series of stressful, multi-tasking activities. The researchers monitored heart rates and self-reported stress levels while the subjects completed these various tasks.
Those instructed to smile had lower heart rate levels and less stress after the activities, and this was especially true for those with the biggest smiles. Those with half smiles reported feeling more content and less stressed than the neutral expression subjects.
Says researcher Sarah Pressman, “The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment. Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!”
Facial Expressions & Depression
Another study looked at the effect of facial expression of depression. The experimenters, Eric Finzi, a cosmetic dermatologist and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School, Norman Rosenthal, worked with 74 subjects who each suffered from major depression. The participants were either given a Botox injection that prevented frowning or a placebo that didn’t affect the facial muscles.
Six weeks after the injection, the results showed that52 percent of those given the Botox injection to eliminate frowning showed a reduction in their depression, compared to only a 15 percent improvement rate for the placebo group. Keeping in step with the first study, these results also indicate that putting on a happy face actually does make you happier.
Whether authentic or not, the simple act of a physical smile tricks our brain into believing that we are actually happy. It also further improves our mood by triggering fun, joyful memories.
In addition to lifting mood and reducing stress, other research has shown that people who smile are considered more likable and friendly. Smiling also tends to make those around us happier as well.
That little curve, be it genuine or fake, can have a dramatic effect on our mood as well as the mood of those around us. Next time you feel like frowning, flip it around and smile. Give it a chance and take note of how happiness begins to sneak up on you!
The world always looks brighter from behind a smile. ~Author Unknown
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