Having a Bad Day? Just Smile, Research Suggests

We optimists know that having a glass-is-half-full outlook on life does not come automatically, nor does it always result from positive external events. Rather, having an optimistic worldview requires conscious cultivation, and it isn’t always easy. When the going gets rough, we must actively fight those little voices in our heads that try to derail our sunny dispositions. What you may not be aware of, however, is that changing your attitude may be as simple as assuming the outward appearances of happiness. In other words, research has proven that just by smiling, you’ll actually feel better.

One study noted in Scientific American Magazine surveyed individuals who had had botox injections which inhibited their ability to frown. Researchers administered a pool of participants—half of which had had botox surgery that made it impossible for them to frown, and half of which were still able to frown–an anxiety and depression survey. The results indicated that those who were physically unable to frown reported consistently high levels of happiness as compared to their frowning counterparts.

Before you dismiss this study as a fluke, another study suggests even more strongly that our attitudes are affected by our facial expressions. Conducted in 1988, the study asked participants to hold pencils in their mouths in different positions while completing a simple task meant to distract from the experiment’s real purpose. Some participants were asked to hold a pencil in their teeth, which effectively forced participants to smile. Others were asked to hold a pencil in their mouths by the eraser, which activated muscles used when we typically frown.

While holding the pencils in their mouths in different positions, participants were then asked to view different cartoons and subsequently rate their funniness. Those who were holding pencils that activated smiling muscles more consistently rated the cartoons as funny as compared to those who were holding pencils that forced their muscles to frown.

The takeaway from these studies is not just that we should smile more often. These studies also demonstrate that our moods are easily affected by stimuli that we may not even be aware of. As such, in order to strengthen your positive outlook, being constantly stimulated by pleasant experiences, whether in the form of the company you keep, the activities you engage in,  or even the way you carry yourself, will help keep your mood up. Good luck!

Author: Jemima Lopez is a freelance blogger and writer who writes for Zen College Life, the directory of higher education, distance learning, and best online schools. She welcomes your comments at her email: lopezjemima562 @ gmail.com.

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