Oral & Vision Health Blog

Smile Therapy Results in a Positive Outlook...Even Under Stress

As a child you may have been told to “grin and bear it.”  What you may not have realized is that smiling while you are experiencing a minor stress can actually improve the way you feel. Studies have been conducted to determine if smile therapy for a positive outlook actually works.

A Duchenne smile is considered a genuine one. It engages muscles in the mouth, cheeks and eyes. When you give a genuine smile, your body is benefited in the following ways:

  • Blood pressure decreases
  • Endorphins— natural pain relievers—are released
  • Serotonin—which is known for making people feel good—is released
  • Immune system is stimulated

Researchers who studied the effects of smiling required participants to experience a stress-inducing activity, such as putting their hands in ice water. Their heart rates were measured and they reported their stress levels. People who had a genuine smile during the experience were found to have lower heart rate levels than those who kept a neutral expression.  

The question you may be wondering, however, is whether a genuine smile is possible when you are feeling unhappy or stressed. It can be quite difficult. In scientific studies, researchers were able to force participants to smile by putting a chopstick in their mouth between their teeth. A pencil also works. Try it. If you put a pencil in your mouth between your teeth you can't frown. Your face automatically lifts up into a smile. The heart rate level was found to be lower even for those who used chopsticks to force a fake smile. This is good news for all of us. If you are stuck in a traffic jam it may be difficult to smile. But you can always grab the nearest pen or pencil and force your face to smile (be sure to ignore the weird looks you get from other drivers!). Your stress level will decrease as your heart rate decreases.

Smiling has other advantages that shouldn't be overlooked including:

  • We’re more approachable to other people with a smile on our faces
  • Others find smiles contagious and will feel compelled to smile back
  • We look less stress and tired

Next time you are in a stressful situation, give it a try. Smile and see if you feel a little better. Research indicates that “grinning and bearing it” really does work, even if you have to cheat and force a smile!