A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” -Proverbs 17:22
Women tend to show their emotions on their faces more than men, and research shows we are also more adept at reading emotional expressions than men. It is possible then that as a woman, you are more impacted by a smiling face than your male counterparts.
An article in Scientific American pointed to research at the University of Cardiff in Wales studied women who were injected with Botox that inhibited their ability to frown. The results showed that those unable to frown reported feeling happier and less anxious. Interestingly, they did not report feeling any more attractive than the women who did not receive Botox injections, so researchers concluded that the happy feelings could not be attributed to giddiness about having fewer wrinkles. “It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn’t just restricted to our brain – there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we’re having,” noted the study’s co-author Michael Lewis, in the article. “It’s like a feedback loop.”
Negative feelings don’t just bring a frown, but the frown brings additional negative feelings. Without the ability to frown, the negative feelings are less intense. Another study, published in the Journal of Pain, showed that those who make unhappy faces while experiencing pain report feeling higher levels of pain than those who relax their faces while experiencing pain. Again, the facial expression intensifies the feeling. These findings mirror the physiological response of a smile. Happy feelings don’t just bring a smile to your face. A smile on your face brings happy feelings. There is a feedback loop between your face and your feelings.
To be clear, you should not avoid frowning when you are sad in order to thwart negative feelings on a regular basis. Research shows that if you suppress your negative emotions altogether, they will eventually emerge in other ways.
Even though science proves that smiling – whether genuine or not – can bring happy feelings, it is much better when you can actually have a real reason to smile. Sometimes, this means taking yourself less seriously. Finding a way to laugh at yourself – or just laugh period is a sure way to a genuine smile. How many times do you smile a day? When encountered with negative feelings, in what ways can you find a reason to smile? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!