A Necessary Ingredient for Happiness

Proverbs 15:13- “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”

Smile

I’m writing this post on a Sunday evening. And just like many of you, I have to go to work in the morning. With statistically most people having that Sunday evening pit in their stomachs, I thought this Proverb was appropriate as we venture into Monday and the new week.

We can all agree that we tend to smile when we are happy. And when we aren’t happy, it’s probably safe to say we aren’t doing a whole lot of smiling. Pretty profound right?

Did you know that scientists have discovered that if you force yourself to smile, whether or not you feel like it, you can cause yourself to feel happy feelings? This forced smile actually has a name. It’s called the Duchenne smile, named after anatomist Guillaume Duchenne who studied emotional expressions in the mid 1800s. Psychologist Paul Ekman has expanded on that research in the past 50 years to discover this:

The Duchenne smile, it seems, is accompanied by increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex — known to be the seat of positive emotions. The most fascinating thing Ekman found is: You can work it in reverse. If you put on a Duchenne smile, you can activate your pleasure centers. You can literally make yourself happy by smiling.

Next time you’re feeling down, stressed, etc., try to force yourself to smile. I know it’s easier said than done but just try it.

Researchers at Uppsala University took these studies one step further with the goal of finding out to what extent we are in control of our facial movements when engaged with other people:

During the study, Dr. Ulf Dimberg told volunteers to react to a series of pictures of expressionless, happy or angry faces. They were told to make frowning, smiling or expressionless faces in return. Often the face they were told to attempt was the opposite of what might be expected – meeting a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile.

The results showed that volunteers simply did not have total control over their facial muscles. While it was easy to frown back at a picture of an angry man, it was much more difficult to pull a smile. Even though study subjects were trying consciously to curb their natural reactions, the twitching in their muscles told a different story. Dr. Dimberg describes this as “emotional contagion”.

So this “emotional contagion” proves that smiling and frowning is contagious. I don’t know about you but I would rather have a contagious smile then a contagious frown. I dare you to smile around people tomorrow and see if they react likewise. I’ve tried it myself and seen it to be true. Just a quick tip: don’t be awkward. 🙂

Mother Teresa once said, “Peace starts with a smile”. Do yourself a favor and put a smile on your face this week.