The old adage ‘grin and bear it’ suggests that smiling might not just be an important nonverbal indicator of happiness .. but also a wishful promotion of smiling as a tonic for life’s stressful events.
A new research study conducted by Tara Kraft from the University of Kansas recruited 169 participants from a university in the Midwest for an experiment into smiling and stress. Subjects were trained to maintain one of three different facial expressions – neutral, standard smile and emphatic smile, and then were instructed to smile.
Those bearing big emphatic smiles, had lower heart rates after stressful tasks compared to subjects who held neutral facial expressions. The results, which will be published in the journal Psychological Science, suggest smiling can help reduce stress, despite actual mood.
"The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment," said Kraft's partner, Sarah Pressman.
In past studies smiling has been shown to reduce blood pressure, assist the immune system to work better, and to release endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin = together these hormones make us feel good.
Let's try this simple exercise:
2. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile.
It’s really difficult isn't it! When we smile our body sends messages to our brain 'yeah this feels good' .. 'everything must be ok, I'm smiling' .. and this makes us feel extra good!
"Joy is the feeling of grinning inside"
Of course .. we humans have known this intuitively for thousands of years .. from the Buddhist tradition read more about the Half Smile Meditation here.