Does smiling really make us feel happier?
We smile because we are happy, and we frown because we are sad. This we know, but does it work in reverse?
Charles Darwin first posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings in 1872. “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it,” he wrote. Our face, in particular, appears to play a big role in our emotional status.
in 2011 psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people whose ability to frown is compromised by cosmetic botox injections are happier, on average, than people who can frown. The researchers administered an anxiety and depression questionnaire to 25 females, half of whom had received frown-inhibiting botox injections. The botox recipients reported feeling happier and less anxious in general; more important, they did not report feeling any more attractive, which suggests that the emotional effects were not driven by a psychological boost that could come from the treatment’s cosmetic nature.
In another research carried out in the University of Kansas, to investigate the claim, the researchers recruited 169 willing college students for a hands-on experiment. But they had to engage in a bit of deception. Actually telling the participants that they were testing whether smiling would make them happier would have distorted the results, so the students were told that the experiment was about multi-tasking.
First, the participants were instructed on how to perform an unusual task: holding chopsticks in their mouths in particular ways that prompted various facial expressions. They were divided into three groups, one that was taught how to form a neutral expression, one that learned how to form a normal smile, and one that was instructed to form a Duchenne smile (also known as a genuine smile), which involves the use of eye muscles, as well as those around the mouth. Additionally, only half of the smilers actually heard the world “smile” during the learning phase; the others were simply taught how to hold the chopsticks in a way that produced smiles, without the expression being identified as such.
Next, the students were put in “multi-tasking situations” that were intentionally designed to be stressful. In the first one, they were asked to trace a star shape with their non-dominant hand while looking only at a mirror image of it, and were misled about the average person’s accuracy in completing the task. While attempting to execute the maneuver with as few errors as possible to win a reward (a chocolate), they were continually reminded to hold the chopsticks in their mouths to maintain the intended facial expression. Afterward, they were instructed to do the same as their hands were submerged in ice water.
During and after each of these tasks, the participants’ heart rates were continuously monitored, and at regular intervals, they were asked to report their levels of stress.
The experiment’s findings were startling. As a whole, the smilers had lower heart rates while recovering from the stressful tasks than those who had assumed neutral expressions, and those with Duchenne smiles had lower heart rates yet. Even those who were smiling only due to their instructed chopstick position—without explicitly being told to smile—showed the same effect. Since heart rate is an indicator of the body’s stress response, it seems as though the act of smiling actually reduced the participants’ overall stress level.
There are other examples of research across the world that confirm, smiling DOES actually lower stress levels and make us feel better.
HAVE A FAB DAY 🙂