Research in positive psychology tells us that a genuine smile, also known as a Duchenne smile, is identified with creating positive emotions. This smile consists of raising both corners of the mouth, showing your teeth and raising your cheeks to the point of forming crow’s feet around the eyes.
In one study, participants diagnosed with clinical depression were asked to perform the Duchenne smile while looking in the mirror for an accumulated 20 minutes a day. After four weeks, the authors reported that every participant was no longer clinically depressed.
Our body and mind are connected, therefore something as simple as smiling can change our outlook on life. When we have happy thoughts, we release chemicals in our body’s that cause us to smile and thus feel good. However, the reverse is also true, when we smile, we release chemicals in our body that lead us to feel happy.
Dr. Robert Zajonc who has been studying the power of smiling since the 1980’s has proved that smiling leads to physical changes in the brain. He calls his theory the facial feedback hypothesis which means that when we smile, we send a message to our brains that everything is okay. In return, our brains release the neurotransmitters that allow us to feel joy and happiness.
Fake it Till You Make it
Go ahead and try it. If happiness is just a smile away, then isn’t it worth putting it into practice? Even if you don’t feel like smiling (which is the real point), go ahead and do it. In other words, fake it till you make it. What do you have to lose besides your melancholy?
Dr. Zajonc says that even a fake Duchenne smile will lead to positive feelings. Try this, take a small mirror with you throughout the day or better yet, use your selfie camera on your cell phone and grin from ear to ear 20 random times throughout the day for thirty seconds to one minute at a time.
Smiling doesn’t just help eliminate depression and sadness in our lives, it is also a powerful antioxidant to combating anxiety. The next time you begin to feel nervous about something, simply reach for a smile and hold on to it for a minute or two. You will soon notice the calming effect it has on your body. Be patient, if it doesn’t feel like it is working immediately. It may take a couple of minutes for your body to remove the adrenaline it produced when you initially became nervous, but if you stick with it, I am sure you will start feeling calmer soon.
“Smiling is better than Prozac,” Dr. Jane Plant, chief scientific adviser to the British government.
3 Powerful Benefits of Smiling
So, if controlling your mood isn’t enough to have you smiling, take a look at this list of scientifically proved benefits for pushing your cheeks into your eyes.
Smiling is contagious.
The Facial Feedback Hypothesis tells us that our facial expressions are contagious. If we scowl at the others, they often scowl back. But this also means that if we smile at others, they also tend to smile back. And when they are smiling, they are creating good feelings which will become attributed to you. As the quote says, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”
When I was in college, I worked at McDonald’s. I loved handing out food in the drive through window because people were so friendly and kind. During a busy hour, I would receive over one hundred different smiles. It was great!
What was interesting, though, was many of my coworkers hated working the drive through because they said customers were so mean. What was the difference? Why did I get such different results performing the same job? Easy, I always initiated contact with a smile, a big dopey well received smile. In doing so, nine out of ten times, I received a smile back. Use the power of initiative and live your life by intention by smiling first.
Smiling makes you more attractive to others.
This one just seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Who would you rather talk to and hang out with, someone with a “death to you expression,” or someone with a relaxed and happy smile on their face? A stoic game face is great if you’re about to play smash mouth football, but doesn’t work too well if you’re trying to make friends.
I learned the power of a smile when I applied for my first car sales job. In the interview, I honestly didn’t know what to say, but I knew I needed to make a great first impression. Remembering that my mother told me to put on a big smile when attempting to put my best foot forward, I did just that. I smiled from ear to ear the entire interview. It worked. I will never forget, at the end of the conversation, the man interviewing me looked at me and said, “That smile will sell cars.” I got the job.
Smiling relieves stress and improves our health.
Smiling sends a message to our brains that everything is okay, which calms our bodies when we are experiencing stress. It does this by releasing the neurotransmitters we need to feel good and stops the overproduction of the stress hormones that cause us to feel bad. Hormones like cortisone and adrenaline. In return, it creates two more health benefits, lowering of our blood pressure and the stimulation of our immune system.
With all the benefits of smiling within your reach, doesn’t it make sense that you should just “Keep on Smiling.”