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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tip of the Week: Try Smiling!

Heart racing in class? Try forcing a smile. Smiling tricks the body into thinking it's relaxed. It may seem weird, but a study performed in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science found that it could actually help you relax. 

Researchers, using chopsticks, manipulated the faces of 169 participants into either a neutral expression, a standard smile (only affects muscles around the mouth), or a Duchenne smile (the effect spreads to the eyes, and thus looks more genuine). Participants—some of whom were specifically told to smile—then completed a number of stressful activities while continuing to hold the chopsticks in their mouths. 

Monitoring heart rates and stress levels (as reported by the participants), researchers found that those with Duchenne smiles were the most relaxed during the experiment. Those who were told to smile also had lower heart rates than those who had neutral expressions, and even those whose standard smiles were formed by the chopsticks felt better than those who didn't smile. 

These findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.

So the next time you're feeling stressed or working hard in class, try holding your face in a smile for a moment. Your smile will naturally tell your body to relax. Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!

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