So I was listening to an audio book about Taoist practices the other day and they quoted a study that was done that had people who were depressed spend half an hour a day smiling at themselves in the mirror. Apparently, there were quite significant improvements in mood – people rating themselves as far less depressed than before the smiling.
I googled and googled and couldn’t find the study so I can’t confirm or disconfirm this particular one. But I did find lots of other studies that support this idea and then some.
So let’s what science says about how smiling improves your mood.
- Turning the frown upside down. One study injected depressed people with botox (no more frowning) and a control group with saline (much frowning going on). More than half the botox group reported reductions in depression compared to 15% of the frowny group. I’m not sure if I’m ready to recommend botox but I do think you could adjust your body posture to emulate confidence and openness. And smile more of course.
- Smiling chopsticks. This study had people make smiles by using chopsticks to turn up the corners of their mouths, or by smiling naturally, or by no smile at all. They did a neutral expression, a half smile, and a full ear-to-ear grin followed by a series of stressful tasks. The true smilers reported lower heart rates and less stress (especially the ear-to-ear grinners), the chopstick smilers reported more contentment and less stress and the non-smilers were pretty unhappy and stressed. Here’s the good news – even if you can’t be a true smiler, a fake smile still has positive benefits. So even if you’re down in the dumps it will help to fake it til you make it.
- A smile, whether it’s genuine or not, can trigger happy memories of the past. We’re one big feedback loop. Happy memories will generate happy feelings.The more happy feelings you have the more happy feelings you have. If you have to fake a smile to get this happening, then I say go for it.
- People like people who smile so you get better feedback from people around you (which makes us feel really good). If you’re feeling down you tend to not make much eye contact or smile much. This is not helpful because you then don’t get good social feedback. Practice smiling in the mirror first (apparently it works) and then do some smiling at other people. Smiles are contagious and you will feel better for seeing a smile on other people’s faces.
So seriously people, if you’re feeling down, turn that frown upside down. If you need a hand there’s a Taoist meditation called “The Inner Smile”.
Tara Brach does a version (that I haven’t listened to yet but Tara is awesome. Here’s the link https://www.tarabrach.com/smile-guided-meditation/
Feel happy xx