An exciting study published in Psychological Bulletin suggests that doing something as simple as smiling can help boost your mood. But how exactly does a facial expression affect your mood?
Smile like you mean it
The researchers who conducted the study wanted to determine if facial expressions can genuinely make people feel certain emotions linked to these expressions.
In the study, the authors analyzed 50 years of data about facial expressions to find the answer. According to Nicholas Coles, a UT doctorate student in social psychology and lead researcher on the paper, conventional wisdom implies that you can feel a little happier just by smiling. On the other hand, your mood may become more serious if you frown or scowl.
For the past 100 years, psychologists have disagreed about this idea. In 2016, these disagreements became more evident. Within the same year, 17 teams of researchers failed to replicate a well-known experiment that showed how the physical act of smiling can make people feel happier.
Coles noted that earlier studies have failed to find evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings. Even Coles and his fellow researchers struggled to focus on the results of a particular study.
Since the early 1970s, psychologists have been testing this idea. This inspired Cole and the rest of his team to examine the existing data on the subject.
The science of smiling
The researchers used a statistical technique called meta-analysis to combine data from 138 studies that involved over 11,000 participants from around the globe.
The results of the meta-analysis showed that facial expressions do have a small impact on feelings. Smiling does make people feel happier, scowling can make them angrier, while frowning can make them sadder.
Coles clarified that this doesn’t mean you can become happier just by smiling alone. The researchers think the findings are exciting since they hinted that the mind and the body interact to shape an individual’s conscious experience of emotion. The researchers believe that there is much to learn about these facial feedback effects.
With the meta-analysis, the researchers are one step closer to truly understanding how emotions work.
Good habits that will help improve your mood
It can be difficult to get through a day when you’re feeling down. Follow the tips below to improve your mood.
- Reduce your stress by breaking down large tasks into smaller ones. Set realistic deadlines for completing these tasks, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Take a break. If you’re feeling stuck on a project, leave your room and go on a quick walk. Breathing in the fresh air and taking in the sights can help get your creative juices flowing again.
- Don’t fixate on negative thoughts. Make a list of things you’re thankful for or positive things about yourself, then review the list when you’re feeling down. You may feel terrible one day, but you must remind yourself that you won’t always feel this way.
- Set realistic expectations about your progress. Significant life changes take a lot of hard work, and it’s normal to have one bad day and several good days.
- Get enough sleep. Your mind and body need to get enough rest to recover from a particularly challenging day. Even quick naps will help improve your mood.
When you’re feeling blue, smile and do things that make you happy; in time, you’ll find that your mood has improved and that you’re ready to take on whatever life throws your way.