Smiling During Stress May Increase Heart Health and Happiness

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A study to be published in the journal of Psychological Science from researchers out of the University of Kansas suggests that smiling while experiencing stress, even if the smile is a fake one, might be good for the heart and actually contribute to a better mood.

Psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman examined how types of smiles and the awareness people have of smiling, might have an effect on the ability to get past situations considered to be stressful.

In sum they wanted to put some old sayings, like 'grin and bear it' to the scientific method and see how it held up. Prior research has demonstrated that smiling does indeed affect emotion, so these researchers sought to determine what types of smiles might have an effect on stress.

Taking 169 university-age volunteers, they put them into an experiment in two stages: training and testing.

The training stage took the form of the researchers training the volunteers on how to either hold their faces in a neutral expression, hold a standard smile (a smile in which only the mouth is showing a smile), or hold a genuine smile (a smile in which the mouth and the eyes indicate a smile).

The testing stage took the form of volunteers performing some multi-tasking activities, and being asked to give a neutral expression, a standard smile or a genuine one. Unknown to the volunteers, the activities were designed to boost levels of stress. Their heart rates were constantly being monitored by the researchers during these activities.

What they determined was that those volunteers who either flashed a standard smile or a genuine smile experienced lower heart rates following the stressful activities than those who held a neutral expression.

They found the participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those whose faces expressed genuine or Duchenne smiles, had lower heart rates after recovery from the stress activities than the ones who held their faces in neutral expressions.

They concluded that it might actually be of some benefit to smile, whether you want to or not, supporting the old adage that we should 'grin and bear it.'

Source: Medical News Today