The Happiness Connection  

Smiling makes you super

A smile a day keeps the psychiatrist away

Smiling not only makes you look better, it also makes you feel better. Smiling is an intentional activity that can boost your level of happiness.

Intentional activities are those things we think about and make a conscious decision or choice to do. They don’t have to be involved or complicated; often simple, deliberate actions can make a big difference to how you feel. 

For example, deciding to smile more is an intentional activity that has the power to increase positive emotions. In fact, smiling has a double whammy when it comes to making you feel happier.

When your brain experiences a positive situation, it sends a message to your brain that instructs the relevant muscles in your face to contract.

You are now smiling.

I have always told my children to smile when they're in an uncomfortable or frustrating situation. Was I giving good advice?

Does a forced smile help you feel good, or does the smile need to start with signals being sent to your brain for you to enjoy a happiness boost?

Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman were interested in just that question, so they conducted a smile study using chopsticks. 

Participants put chopsticks into their mouths to produce one of three different expressions: neutral, standard smile or big smile. 

Half the participants were asked to consciously smile while their mouths were forced into one of the expressions; the other half weren’t given any instructions about smiling. 

Once the chopsticks were positioned in their mouth, each person was given activities to perform. These tasks were designed to increase stress levels. To see how each participant reacted to and recovered from the stress, their hearts were monitored.

The results showed those who were instructed to smile, regardless of what facial expression the chopsticks forced their mouth into, had lower heart rate levels and recovered from the stress more quickly, compared with those subjects who weren’t asked to smile. 

Those with chopsticks positioned to force the big smile had a slight advantage over less intense smiles, which suggests a forced smile can also reap the rewards that are associated with feeling happy.

When comparing those people, who were instructed to smile with those who weren’t, the results showed that participants who had forced smiles from the chopsticks, but who hadn’t been asked to smile felt more confident and less stressed than those non-smiling subjects with neutral expressions.

It seems that smiling, regardless of whether it is genuine or not, tricks your brain into thinking you are happy.

Additional research into this chicken-and-egg situation shows that when your brain feels good it tells you to smile and when you smile, your brain feels good. 

One British research scientist declared that “smiling can be as stimulating as receiving up to 16,000 pounds sterling in cash.” 

That’s between $30,000 and $43,000, depending on which side of the 49th parallel you live.

I decided to try this after reading about the study. I waited for a moment in my life when I was feeling a slump in positivity. 

It didn’t take long. 

I arranged my face into the biggest, most genuine smile I could muster and guess what? It worked. I could feel tension roll away from my neck and my whole body began to relax and feel less stressed. 

If you aren’t good at smiling, or it makes you feel uncomfortable, stand in front of a mirror and practice. 

Try to make your smile reach your eyes not just change your mouth; visualize yourself talking to someone who makes you smile, or try remembering a happy experience.

The more you practise smiling, the more comfortable you will feel doing it and the more natural it will feel.

Choose to turn that frown upside down next time you are under stress.

Your brain, your body and your mood will thank you for it.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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