This may come as a surprise, but not everyone wakes up ready to go and happy about the day. However, there is pretty substantial research indicating you can get yourself into a great mood early on, just by, you guessed it, smiling! Here’s a story about just one of those reports.
Many of you know that I grew up in the Midwest and went to dental school in Kansas City; and when I found an article from the University of Kansas I just had to see what they said about it. (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) The researchers, Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman, studied “whether covertly manipulating positive facial expressions would influence cardiovascular and affective responses to stress.” Their conclusions were a big yes!
I’ll give you a quick rundown. The researchers had participants hold chopsticks in their mouth to “induce” smiles for their participants. Half the group were then instructed to smile, and the other half were not. Then they gave the participants “stress inducing” activities, like tracing shapes using a mirror, or flossing while a hygienist was watching… (just kidding about that last one.)
“Findings revealed that all smiling participants, regardless of whether they were aware of smiling, had lower heart rates during stress recovery than the neutral group did, with a slight advantage for those with Duchenne smiles.” “These findings show that there are both physiological and psychological benefits from maintaining positive facial expressions during stress.”
This is wild! Because even the group that wasn’t instructed to smile, still had positive effects! Wait so you’re telling me I can fake smile and still have benefits both to reduce stress and lower heart rate? Yep. Now, we all know true feelings are the best, but if you’re feeling down, why not try a nice 5-minute smile. Technically you use fewer muscle groups to smile than frown, so it’s not even that bad of a workout! Happy Smiling!