Keep the Happy Smile—How Smiling Can Trick Your Brain into Happiness
In the 19th century, Charles Darwin proposed that our facial expressions don’t just reflect emotions, but also trigger them. However, this theory didn’t gain any traction until the 1980s. In that decade, many psychologists conducted studies with somewhat consistent results that proved to strengthen the concept. Among these was Dr. Zajonc.
The Vowel Study
In 1989, he published a study where he had the subjects pronounce the words “e” and “u”, each of which led to the formation of a smile and pout respectively. This authenticated the study because the subjects were not aware of the purpose of the study.
They reported feeling happy when pronouncing “e” and unhappy when pronouncing “u”. There were many other studies conducted that drew similar conclusions.
The Science Behind This!
It is a well-known fact in the scientific world that any temperature change in the body also modifies the chemical activities of the region. So when you smile and your facial veins get constricted, the blood flow to your heart reduces, leading to a drop in temperature. This triggers a feeling of happiness. The converse is true for when you frown since the temperature of the blood rises and makes you feel unhappy.
Fake It Till You Make It?
The idea of faking a smile intentionally might not make sense to you but research says that doing so really improves your mood. Now this doesn’t mean that if you’re really unhappy and you fake a smile, everything gets better. These research studies are only valid in situations of emotional neutrality. So, instead of assuming a neutral expression, smiling can make you feel a lot more positive!
Another study that compared neutral expressions to smiles was published in the Psychological Science Journal where subjects were made to hold chopsticks in certain positions to simulate a smile or stay neutral. Those who smiled experienced a lower heart rate after doing some stress inducing work compared to neutral subjects.
Don’t worry! Just Smile
Yet, some of you might not want to do it because you’re unhappy with your smile. If so, then you’re at the right place.