Stress relief: How smiling calms you down

Stress is awful but sadly something we all deal with. While we cook up personal remedies — no checking email after 7 p.m. or on weekends — it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed when you want to give enough attention to all of the things that matter to you. So what can you do when you need a break from the pressure?

Sarah Treleaven 0
Woman's smiling mouth

Masterfile

Stress is awful but sadly something we all deal with. While we cook up personal remedies — no checking email after 7 p.m. or on weekends — it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed when you want to give enough attention to all of the things that matter to you. So what can you do when you need a break from the pressure?

A new study, reported by Lindsay Abrams over at the Atlantic, offers an idea: try smiling. Researchers have found that smiling — even when it’s forced using chopsticks (as they did) — can ease stress and lower heart rates, even in the midst of multitasking. The conclusion? “When a situation has you feeling stressed or flustered, even the most forced of smiles can genuinely decrease your stress and make you happier.”

The idea that we need to smile when we don’t feel like it is far from my idea of therapeutic but this isn’t about smiling for someone else, it’s about smiling for you and how it changes your physical state. It’s about taking a moment out of the chaos to realize that things are actually okay most of the time.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of life — too much work, too many expenses, too many social obligations — but life won’t unravel if one, or several, of those things is occasionally dropped. By forcing a smile, we get not just a physical refresher but a reminder that life’s biggest sources of stress always pass and that there’s always something to smile about.

What do you do to cheer yourself up when you’re feeling grumpy?

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