We all know that too much stress in our lives can wreak havoc on our health, disrupting nearly every system in our body. Stress can lead to high blood pressure, an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and even accelerated aging. To remedy this, many people turn to yoga, meditation, stress counseling, or frequent vacations, but one study has shown that the simple act of smiling – even if the smile isn’t genuine – can be very effective to reduce your stress and enhance your mood overall.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Kansas and published in the journal Psychological Science, determined the stress levels of 169 participants when they were put into stressful situations by monitoring their heart rate. All were instructed to perform several multitasking activities as they struggled to hold chopsticks in their mouths, which were used to stimulate neutral as well as genuine smiles. One group was instructed to also smile during the activity. The results of the study showed that those with the forced smiles held only by the chopsticks had lower stress levels and heart rates than those with neutral expressions, and those who had genuine smiles were the most relaxed of all the participants.
So, the next time you have too much on your to-do list and stress is getting the best of you, just smile. “Fake it ‘til you make it” might prove to be a quality piece of advice to follow.