Research shows that smiling helps reduce stress levels
Smiling when you’re under pressure actually helps reduce stress levels, say researchers from the University of Kansas. They put 169 study participants through different training sessions. One group as trained to perform a ‘Duchenne smile’ which is when you use the smile muscles around the mouth and eyes; another group were instructed to perform standard smiles, using only the muscles around the mouth; the last group used chopsticks, held between their teeth, to create a smile without intending to do so. Then participants were asked to try various multitasking activities specifically designed to be stressful. The participants were asked how stressed they felt and their heart rates were monitored.
The participants who smiled showed lower stress levels than those who maintained neutral expressions. Even those who held chopsticks in their mouths to perform a fake smile showed lowered stress levels – their heart rates were lower after the stressful tasks had been performed, and they also reported less stress. This is important as it shows that actually feeling happy in order to smile isn’t what necessarily reduces feelings of stress – and the physical symptoms of it – simply enacting the physical process of a smile also has a similar effect.