Can smiling change your mood? Science says it just might, so give it a shot

Smiling; we all do it. Some of us might do it more often than others, but even the grumpiest people can’t help but crack a smile every once in a while. There’s always something that can cheer us up in the darkest of times, and it turns out that the more we smile, the happier we’re likely to feel. Genuinely. This is a real, scientifically-proven thing that we’re talking about here; we’re not just trying to fool you into smiling (though you should totally be doing that right now). Before you cast this off as a load of rubbish, just give us a chance to explain.

Can smiling change your mood? Science says it just might, so give it a shot

It’s all brain trickery

Sometimes when we smile, we don’t actually mean it. We might just be doing it to hide our true feelings around someone. Nevertheless, this can trigger our brain to change how we’re feeling. The process of smiling (or rather, making our facial muscles contract in a way that represents smiling) sets off a positive feedback loop that consequently produces positive feelings. So, putting it simply, when you smile you prompt your brain to create feelings of happiness, whether you were genuinely feeling happy or not.

Before you start walking around with your face looking permanently gleeful, this isn’t the solution to eternal happiness. Slapping a smile on your face won’t fill you with a sense of euphoria all the time. If anything, the change will be fairly small, albeit more powerful than the pleasure you get from taking a bite of chocolate. While this might not make it seem worth having to smile all the time, especially when you don’t want to, just stick with us. There’s more to how this works.

Put some muscle into it

Ever heard of a Duchenne smile? It’s basically the way that people can tell whether you’re genuinely happy or not – the Cheshire Cat grin. A Duchenne smile involves the contraction of muscles around the mouth and eyes, which lifts the corners of your mouth and your cheeks (resulting in crow’s feet). Why are they relevant? Well, it’s this kind of smiles that you need to be doing in order to make the most of that positive feedback loop we mentioned earlier. This is because Duchenne smiles use more muscles, which in turn send a bigger signal to your brain.

It can benefit you to be grinning like a mad person every now and again, because there are more advantages to smiling than just feeling a bit happier. Lowered stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure have all been reported from people who made a more active effort to smile, as well an increase in feelings of pain relief. That’s a lot for your brains to achieve just because you were feeling happy, don’t you think?

Can smiling change your mood? Science says it just might, so give it a shot

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It turns out you aren’t the only one who benefits from that newfound smile on your face. Being the sociable humans that we are, we’re wired to mirror the people around us, whatever mood they’re in. If we’re feeling glum, there’s a good chance our low mood can bring our friends down too, but the same can be said for when we’re feeling happy. If you start smiling more, so will the others around you, and then everyone will be reaping the rewards of their brain’s positive feedback loop.

The joy of smiling, eh? In a world full of quick solutions to cheering yourself up and finding happiness, none are quicker, easier and healthier than a simple smile.