• Bola Kwame

Smiling Can Make You Happier, Even If You Fake It

What is the worst advice you can give someone when they are feeling down?

This is my top 3:

3. “Life is not that hard.

2. “Have you tried exercising?

And the gold medal goes to:

1. “Why don’t you smile more?

I accept suggestions for this list, you can leave them in the comments.

However, while it’s horrendous to tell a depressed person to just smile, it may not be such terrible advice.

The other day I came across a concept that blew my mind. It irritated me a bit, I must confess.

It was called “The Smiling Test.”

The idea is very simple. So simple that it is annoying. According to a series of studies, forcing a smile can promote a better mood.

Yes, even if you fake it with chopsticks or tape on your face. No matter how sad or stressed you are, a fake smile can be the solution.

Thanks. I hate it.

The research

As you know, Internet law dictates that nothing is true unless you provide a sauce, I mean… a source.

So I dedicated myself to looking for the papers that supported this theory and to my surprise I did not find one.

I found two.

The first one I found was a study from the University of South Australia.

Some participants were asked to hold a pencil with their teeth, causing a false smile on their faces. The result was that the amygdala, responsible for emitting neurotransmitters for positive reactions, was stimulated in the same way.

That is, our brain does not know the difference between a real smile and a forced one. Just like me when my ex had dinner with me and my parents.


The second study went a bit further.

In 2012, Sarah Pressman and Tara Kraft conducted a similar experiment.

169 participants were instructed to perform a series of stress-inducing tasks. While doing this, one group was asked to maintain a neutral expression, another was forced to smile with a chopstick, and the last group was asked to maintain a smile with no help.

As they performed these tasks, their heart rate, induced stress level, and the time it took for each participant to relax again were monitored.

As a result, people who maintained a neutral expression showed a higher level of stress and it took them longer to resume their heart rate after completing the tasks.

After them, the people who were asked to keep a smile. People with chopsticks reported the lowest level of stress and calmed down the fastest.


Fake it until you make it

I think that phrase was always correct, we just didn’t see it in the right way.

Studies after these experiments have concluded that positive behavior affects our inner feelings. And, except in the case of using it to hide feelings of sadness, this can be beneficial in the long term to regulate our emotions.

So far, no negative aspects of this practice have been found.

Now that you know, let me see a smile on that pretty face.

Oh good God… don’t smile so much!

There, there … that’s fine.

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