Last blog I wrote about the link between our body posture and facial expressions and our mood and thoughts. I mentioned that there had been a simple experiment done which demonstrated this link. This week, I’ll describe that experiment – and say a little more about the benefits of smiling.
The researchers wanted to test the effect of different facial expressions on mood, but didn’t want the participants to be aware of this. For this reason the people in the study were told that the research was about adaptations for people who had lost use of their hands and so would need to hold things in their mouths. Participants were then asked to hold a pencil either between their teeth (a position which activate the smile muscles) or between their lips (which doesn’t activate the smile muscles). They were then, while holding their pencil, asked to rate the “funny-ness” of a number of cartoons. Those people holding the pencil between their teeth (and therefore activating the smiling muscles) rated the cartoons as funnier than people who held a pencil between their lips. It seemed that, even when the people weren’t knowingly smiling, they were pre-disposed to feeling more good humoured.
The experiment has been repeated a number of times and always produces the same result. More recent research also suggests that smiling during brief periods of stress can reduce the body’s stress response, regardless of whether the person really feels happy or not and so can have a real stress-busting effect.
Smiling has also been shown to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, cause the release of feel-good chemicals and natural pain relievers and is known to make us more attractive to others. Given all that you can see why the advice to smile more is worth taking.
Smiling seems to cause real, very healthy, changes in us all – and what’s more it’s contagious! When you smile at someone, you both benefit. So what are you waiting for? You could even start by smiling at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning – make it a real one and you might be surprised at the effect it has.
I help many clients regain the habit of smiling, as they lose their feelings of anxiety and low mood. You can find out more by looking around the website or contact me to find out how I could help you.