Smiling Reduces Stress and Boosts Heart Health

We’ve all heard how simply smiling can help boost your mood, but did you know that the act of smiling can reduce your stress levels and boost your heart health? In a recent study conducted by the University of Kansas, researchers found exactly that, even in participants who were not aware of their smile.

The study divided the 170 participants into three groups and instructed them to hold chopsticks between their teeth and produce a “neutral expression,” a standard smile, or a true Duchenne smile–which was named after the French neurologist Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne–as shown in the image from the study below.

Smile Study

Photo courtesy of Association for Psychological Science, USA

According to Sarah Pressman, assistant professor of psychology at the University, the participants were asked to hold the chopsticks in certain positions that forced them to involuntarily make these expressions. They were also instructed not to smile, but to relax and let their facial muscles naturally take shape to how they needed to hold the chopsticks.

While holding the chopsticks, the participants had to complete a stress-inducing task and then afterward, a cardiovascular test. All tasks and tests were performed while holding the chopsticks in these positions. The researchers then measured the participants’ heart rates and self-reported stress levels, and they found that those who were smiling had lower heart rates and reported less stress than the participants in the neutral expression groups.

Those who were forced into a Duchenne smile had the lowest heart rates and less self-reported stress.

Since all participants were ordered to not smile, the researchers concluded that it doesn’t matter if one knows they are smiling or not. The act of smiling itself produced the positive effects.

With this new, scientific evidence that smiling is beneficial to your health, don’t you want to show off your best possible smile? If you aren’t proud of your smile, you won’t genuinely smile that Duchenne smile no matter how happy you are. Be sure to brush twice a day, floss regularly, see your dentist for biannual cleanings, and above all else, talk to your dentist if you aren’t happy with your smile! Whether your teeth aren’t as white as you want or you have a gap you’re embarrassed of, talk to your dentist about treatment options available.

And remember to smile! It’s good for you!

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Psychological Science journal.

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