Aug 8, 2012

Smiling Reduces Stress

Results of an interesting study to find out if smiling, even forced smiling can reduce stress. The Study is published in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers used chopsticks to manipulate the facial muscles of their 169 participants into a neutral expression, a standard smile, or a Duchenne smile. A Duchenne smile engages the muscles around the mouth, raises the cheeks, and includes eyes.

In addition to the chopstick placement, some were explicitly instructed to smile. Then, they were subjected to a series of stress-inducing, multitasking activities, which they struggled to perform while continuing to hold the chopsticks in their mouths. The subjects' heart rates and self-reported stress levels were monitored throughout.

The participants who were instructed to smile recovered from the stressful activities with lower heart rates than participants who held neutral expressions. Those with Duchenne smiles were the most relaxed of all, with the most positive affect. Those with forced smiles held only by the chopsticks also reported more positive feelings than those who didn't smile.

When a situation has you feeling stressed or flustered, even the most forced smiles can genuinely decrease your stress and make you happier.