When we’re happy, we often smile to express it, but does that mean that smiling can cause or produce happiness? This is the question that many psychologists and scientists have been pondering for over 100 years! We will be exploring how it works and if there are any “side effects” to faking it. And did anyone say chopsticks?
How does this work?
The main idea or belief currently is that smiling, even when unhappy, tricks your brain into thinking that you are happy. It releases essential hormones that then actually do improve one’s mood. It has even been found that smiling or laughing reduces stress levels and can even cause a drop in your heart rate!
A study worth reading
A study called “Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response”, published in the journal Psychological Science, is definitely worth the read if you want to delve deeper into this topic. In this study, they studied 3 types of smiles: a standard smile, a smile the scientists created using chopsticks, and a genuine smile. They used the chopstick smile to see if just moving the face into a grin could potentially reduce stress and lower the participants’ heart rates. They found that all the different types of smiles, even the chopstick smile, did, in fact, reduce stress and lower participant’s heart rates. The genuine smile was found to do this most effectively out of all. This shows us that no matter how forced a smile is, it can in fact help one feel happier!
Will there be consequences to suppressing your feelings?
The short answer to this question is no. It has been found that if you do not express the feelings that you are feeling via facial expressions, these feelings seep out in other places of your life. It can even cause people to adopt a negative attitude and have poor short-term memory. However, this is only when people continuously suppress their feelings. Smiling for short periods of time during the day to lift one’s spirits will not cause harm. The above evidence just shows that we are humans with emotions that need to be expressed. Therefore, if you are in a comfortable space or with people you trust, there is nothing wrong with telling and showing them how you feel!
Smiling can be contagious!
We have something called mirror neurons in our brain that allows us to notice when someone smiles at us and then reflect or mirror this action to others. The more authentic the smile is, the higher the likelihood that the other person will pass it on. This is because you receive a good feeling from that person which relaxes you and makes you want to pass it on. This means that not only should we aim to smile more for our own mental health, but it is a good idea to even smile at other people and improve their mental health.
Start the day off by smiling
Many people have now decided to start their mornings off by smiling. They do this by smiling for 30 seconds at a time while they are getting ready for work. This will not take you any longer than usual to get ready and you might even find that you feel energized and happier to start off the day!