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Fake It 'til You Make It: The Science Behind Your Smile

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Are you having a bad day? Well, here’s a bit of advice: SMILE.

Why is it, when we see things that remind us of happy times, a silly little grin is automatically slapped across our faces? Or how reuniting with a loved one who we haven’t seen in months, will leave an infectious, uncontrollable smile from cheek to cheek?

According to Psychology Today, there’s a science behind the reverberating neurons moving from the brain’s cerebral cortex to it’s brain stem that gives our face-muscles the command to shine our pearly whites.

But what about when we don’t feel that sudden surge of happiness or nostalgia? When our brain is not producing endorphins to make us feel happy? We feel down, and smiling just simply wouldn’t feel natural, would it?

But, in truth, smiling is exactly what you should do.

By practicing something called, “facial feedback hypothesis,” we begin to teach our brain how to release these endorphins when we need them most. It is easier to control our muscles than it is to control our emotions, so, in this way, we are giving our brain a little nudge in the direction of happiness.

A study conducted in the late 1980’s demonstrates how a smile – whether intentional, or not – can actually affect our moods and opinions. Because the researchers wanted to keep the reason of the study unknown, they had their subjects smile in an ingenious way:

The first group of subjects held a pencil widthwise between their front teeth, forcing the muscles around their mouth to form a smile. The second group held the pencil lengthwise with their lips, which meant that they weren’t able to smile at all. Actually- they were sort of frowning. The control group held the pencil in their hands.

With the different placements of the pencils, the subjects then looked at some cartoons and rated how funny they found them to be. The “smile” group gave the cartoons much higher ratings in terms of funniness than the “frown” group did, while the control group was somewhere in the middle.

By cracking a smile we can intentionally force the production of endorphins in our brain, which in turn, will make a bad day get a little bit easier.

So fake it til ya make it. Sport a little grin and your day will start to look brighter!


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