When we’re happy, we smile. The corners of our mouths move out and up, our cheeks lift up and the skin around our eyes crinkles. But scientists wanted to know if it works the other way - if posing our muscles into a smile would boost our mood. And a new study of nearly 4-thousand volunteers in 19 countries finds that it can.
An international collaboration of researchers led by Stanford research scientist Nicholas Coles wanted to know whether facial expressions influence our emotional experience, a concept known as the facial feedback hypothesis. Based on their studies, they found that smiling - even forced smiles - can, in fact, make us feel happier. So why does it work? Coles says the mechanics of that aren’t yet known, but one possible explanation is that “if you activate a smile, the peripheral nervous system tells the rest of the system that happiness is happening and it tries to catch up.”
So when people’s facial muscles come together to form a smile - even if they’re not thinking about smiling - something in the mind-body connection results in the feeling of happiness. While the effect isn’t strong enough to overcome something intense like depression, there’s really no downside to trying it. “Smiling in hopes it will make you feel happier is probably worth a shot,” Coles explains. “It’s not going to cost you anything and maybe it will work.”
Source: Stanford University