In a previous post I wrote about the benefits of laughter. Who doesn’t love to laugh? Well if you simply CANNOT find anything at all to laugh at… just smile! I wrote this on a Facebook note but thought the story deserved repeating!
On a hike, my son was upset that we would not be going to the video game store before returning home. He huffed and puffed with all the vigorous disappointed anger of a 7 year old boy. I said “Son, I recognize your feelings. You have all the right in the world to FEEL anything. However, I don’t think it fair for you to spread your bad attitude all over everyone else. By all means be funky but you’ll have to march and smile while you do it!” He marched and smiled for 45 minutes providing us all, tons of opportunity for bouts of uncontrollable laughter. At the end, he said “Mom, I actually learned something today! Everything really IS better with a smile…”
Here’s the scientific research behind the method to my madness…
You may think that people smile because they are happy, but scientific research suggests otherwise.
‘Simply using the same muscles as smiling will put you in a happier mood,’ explains Dr Michael Lewis, psychologist at Cardiff University. That’s because use of those muscles is part of how the brain evaluates mood.’
Charles Darwin was one of the first to suggest our expressions may actually intensify our feelings. This theory is known as the ‘feedback loop’ or ‘facial feedback hypothesis’.
A smiling expression feeds back into how we experience mood, therefore making us feel happier or a joke seem funnier.
Professor Fritz Strack, along with Leonard L Martin and Sabine Stepper, investigated this theory and published a study in 1988.
This revealed that people who used their smiling muscles when presented with cartoons found them more amusing than people who didn’t.
Separate studies have shown that people suffering from facial paralysis, and without the ability to smile, have been found to suffer more from depression.
Can smiling relieve stress?
Mark Stibich, PhD, a consultant at Columbia University, and contributor to a Guide to Longevity at about.com, believes smiling may also act as a stress relief.
When you’re stressed a number of things happen to your body,’ explains Stibich.
‘Your pulse rate shoots up, your digestive system shuts down, and your blood sugar levels increase.
“But two things also happen that you have voluntary control over – your breathing becomes shallower and faster and facial expressions kick in.
‘If you can slow your breathing down and change your expression, you may be able to turn around the stress cascade.’
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This video has been embedded from TED.com. TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The site contains some of the most inspiring information available online and I highly recommend visiting.