Smiling Even When Unhappy Makes You a Happier Person — Here's Why

Smiling Even When Unhappy Makes You a Happier Person — Here's Why
Source: Unsplash
Source: Unsplash

Don't get it twisted: We're definitely not telling you to smile more — being told to do that doesn't appear to improve peoples' moods. That being said, the physical act of smiling has been scientifically proven to produce positive feels, whether you're genuinely happy or sad.

Science attributes this to the "facial feedback effect." 

According to Psychology Today, "the physiology of a particular facial expression can affect your emotional experience." So even if you're dead inside, just simulate a smile and reap all its attendant benefits.

Source: Giphy

"Facial feedback works because the brain senses the flexion of certain facial muscles (like the zygomatic major, which is required to smile) and interprets it as 'Oh I must be happy about something,'" neuroscientist Alex Korb, PhD, explained. "Similarly, if that muscle isn't flexed then your brain thinks, 'Oh, I must not be happy.'"

Source: Giphy

It's all about tricking the brain.

The Atlantic cites as evidence a 2012 experiment involving chopsticks and 169 human faces. Researchers first subjected their test subjects to stressful activity, then, monitoring their heart rates, arranged the participants faces into one of three expressions: neutral, standard smile and Duchenne smile — the wide, real kind that shows in the eyes. 

Source: Giphy

People whose faces were manipulated into smiles returned to low heart rates more quickly than did people who maintained neutral expressions, but people whose mouths were forced into toothy grins were quickest to recover, suggesting they were the most relaxed. 

The conclusion? Even faking smiles makes us feel better. 

Source: Giphy

So when everything feels absolutely terrible, turn that frown upside down. Even if your peculiar grin makes others write you off as a creep, smiling for no good reason, at least you'll feel better. 

And that's what counts. 

Source: Giphy

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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