January 9, 2023 at 5:18 pm

Can Smiling Actually Make You Happier?

by Trisha Leigh

There are way too many people in this world waiting to tell you to smile, or to turn your frown upside down. It’ll make you look prettier, everyone likes it, it will improve your day, fake it till you make it…but could it actually make you happier?

A recent paper suggests that yes, it could.

iStock 1172681910 Can Smiling Actually Make You Happier?

Image Credit: iStock

“The facial feedback hypothesis suggests that individuals’ emotional experiences are influenced by their facial expressions. For example, smiling should typically make individuals feel happier, and frowning should make them feel sadder.”

Which is to say that yes, even a fake, forced smile can improve your mood.

“Researchers suggest that these effects emerge because facial expressions provide sensorimotor feedback that contributes to the sensation of an emotion. This facial feedback hypothesis…supports broader theories that contend emotional experience is influenced by feedback from the peripheral nervous system, as opposed to experience and bodily sensations being independent components of an emotion response.”

iStock 1366100818 Can Smiling Actually Make You Happier?

Image Credit: iStock

The team wanted to see how these theories held up in the real world, and recruited 4,000 people in 19 countries along for the ride.

They were assigned to one of three groups – one that was told to mimic the smile of a person in a photo, one that was given a set of instructions on how to fix their face so that they would unwittingly “smile,” and the last that held a pen in their mouths with their teeth or lips, which sort of creates a smile as well.

“There was strong evidence of facial feedback effects in the facial mimicry and voluntary facial action tasks, but the evidence was less clear in the pen-in-mouth task.”

In short, they felt as if they were able to conclude that smiling, regardless of whether you want to or even mean to, is worth a shot if you’re feeling down.

iStock 1069276664 Can Smiling Actually Make You Happier?

Image Credit: iStock

“It’s not going to cost you anything and maybe it will work. but you shouldn’t see this as a substitute for therapy.”

The opposite is also true, according to psychologists, so think about that the next time you’re pulling a face.

twistedsifter on facebook Can Smiling Actually Make You Happier?