The Fake Smile Experiment – Science or Myth?
We all know that our facial expressions reflect our internal emotions.
When we feel happy we can’t help but smile, when we feel angry we frown or scowl, etc.
But have you ever considered that it works both ways?
That our internal emotions can also be a reflection of our facial expressions? Decades of research bears the same truth: by faking a smile, even for a few seconds, you can improve your mood and reduce stress.
In short - our brains may not be able to tell the difference. A fake smile can (and often does!) evoke, physiologically, the same neural response as a genuine smile.
Ready to try it out? It might seem counter-intuitive, especially if you don’t feel particularly happy right now, but I challenge you to go ahead and try it anyway.
STEP #1: Tune into your facial muscles, and notice if you are holding tension anywhere. Relax your face, especially if you are frowning or clenching your jaw.
STEP #2: Smile! The key here is to do a FULL FAKE SMILE which means smiling with your eyes and your mouth. Raise those cheeks high, and keep it there for at least a few seconds.
STEP #3: Notice any changes in your body and your mood. Do you feel happier? More relaxed? Did you notice anything interesting? Maybe the fake smile turned into a genuine smile after a few seconds?
As you might have guessed, frowns have the opposite effect. So if you have a tendency to hold tension in your face, or frown a lot, or clench your jaw - you might be making yourself feel extra stressed or angry.
And with that comes a challenge …
Next time you’re in a bad mood, tune into your face and relax your muscles, and then try the fake smile. Don’t forget to smile with your eyes too! And if a boosted mood and decreased stress levels isn’t motivation enough - keep in mind that when you smile in public you’re triggering a positive neural response in anyone who sees you (i.e. - you’ll make other people happier).