After decades of argument and counter-argument, psychologists have agreed that arranging one’s features into the shape of a smile helps brighten the mood. In other words, try looking a little happier first if you want to feel a little more comfortable.
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Researchers have long wondered whether the physical manifestations of emotions can actually influence our feelings, from smiling and laughing to crying and frowning. The theory is that the muscles we use to produce these expressions send signals to the brain that mimic the emotions we are trying to convey. So smiling, for example, might “fool” the brain into thinking we are happy, even if we don’t feel it initially.
Several studies have found evidence to support this so-called facial feedback hypothesis. Still, there has also been plenty of dissenters who argue that the link between expressions and emotions is not so clear-cut.
Now, a new review of past research published in the Psychological Bulletin suggests that there is indeed a relationship between smiles and happiness – albeit a small one.
The researchers analysed data from 138 previous studies involving 11,000 participants in total. They found that people who were instructed to smile or otherwise arrange their features into happy expressions tended to report feeling more satisfied than those who didn’t.
The authors say the effect size was “relatively small,” but it was consistent across different measurements and cultures.
In addition, the researchers found that the influence of smiling on happiness was strongest when people were not asked to maintain the expression for long periods. This suggests that, contrary to popular belief, faking it ‘til you make it might not be the best strategy for boosting your mood.
So next time you’re feeling down, try plastering a smile on your face – it might just help chase away the blues.
What do you think? Could you fake your way to happiness? Let us know in the comments below.