Birch Tree Psychology

Specializing in Therapy for Children, Adults, and Families

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Can Smiling Improve Your Mood?

Posted by Brittany on February 24, 2012 at 3:45 PM

I have always been fascinated with the study of emotions, particularly positive emotions. Smiling specifically seems to be the hallmark of someone that is in a good mood. Everyone knows that people smile when they feel happy, but can the sheer act of smiling produce happiness? Recent evidence now suggests that smiling, even if its a "fake" smile, can actually lead to a happier mood. In fact, research has found there are many benefits to smiling, including improved mood, increased social connection, decreasing blood pressure, and it can even boost your immune system.

 

One of the original studies on smiling had participants repeat vowel sounds that forced their faces into various expressions. For example, they had people make the long "e" sound, which stretches the corners of the mouth outward to mimic the characteristics of a smile. Their participants rated higher feelings of happiness after making the long "e" sound. Interestingly, people reported feeling worse after making a long "u" sound, which mimics a frown.

 

There is also research that shows that simply putting a pencil in your mouth while doing an activity such as reading the paper leads to happier mood. Go to a mirror and hold a pencil in your teeth without letting your lips touch the pencil. The muscles that you are using are the same muscles used to make a smile. Also interesting is if you hold the pencil with just your lips without touching your teeth you mimic a frown. Try this one, read a comic strip or watch a comedy while holding a pencil in your teeth. People find that the show that they watch is "funnier" while holding the pencil in their teeth than without the pencil.

 

One simple homework that I enjoy giving my clients is to smile more. Basically, you can flip a coin and consciously smile more if its "heads" and if its "tails" smile just when you normally would, or if you want to be more methodical, on even days you would smile as much as possible and on odd days you just carry on normally. Most people find that they feel better and more connected with others on the days when they are smiling all day. At the end of the days when people smile I have them look back and see “how do I feel when I smile more"… “how did others react to me?” If the answer is that you feel great at the end of your smiling day, keep doing it! Smiling is one of the easiest things to do and I encourage everyone to have "smile day" every now and then.

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