I would never have thought that I’d get inspiration from The Terminator, but I look forward to The Pump Club, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daily newsletter each morning. He and his collaborator, Adam Bornstein call it the “positive corner of the internet”.
It offers tips and science on physical and mental health, and workouts too. (Speaking of The Terminator, one of my clients’ teenage sons calls me “The Pollinator”!)
This advice is from a recent issue of the newsletter – it seems like it should be simple, but might be difficult to do: smile, even if you don’t feel like it.
I’ve heard it all my life. “Smile!” In bars, walking along the street, once even shouted from a window. I guess it’s my natural resting bitch face. A pick up line at its worst. I’ll never smile when someone tells me to, but turns out that it’s good advice to give ourselves.
Researchers at Penn State found that smiling — even if it’s forced — boosts happiness, reduces stress, and makes you healthier. The researchers found that, “smiling may have a number of health-relevant benefits, including beneficially impacting our physiology during acute stress, improved stress recovery, and reduced illness over time.”
We all need more happiness, and ways to reduce the effects of stress.
Smiling has been found to have a positive impact on our emotional state and stress levels. Here are a few reasons why smiling can help lower stress responses and make you happier:
- Psychological feedback: When we smile, even if it’s a forced or “fake” smile, it sends a signal to our brain that we are experiencing positive emotions. This triggers the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which are often referred to as “feel-good” neurotransmitters. These chemicals can help reduce stress and increase feelings of happiness.
- Physiological changes: Smiling can lead to physiological changes in our bodies that help counteract the stress response. For example, it can lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce muscle tension, and promote relaxation. These changes contribute to an overall sense of well-being and can help alleviate stress.
- Cognitive shift: Smiling can also have a cognitive impact by shifting our mindset and perspective. When we smile, even if we don’t initially feel happy, it can trick our brain into perceiving the situation as more positive. This cognitive shift can help reframe stressful situations, making them feel more manageable and less overwhelming.
- Contagious nature: Smiling is contagious, meaning that when we see someone else smiling, it often triggers a reflexive response in us to smile as well. And when we smile it often elicits a smile from others. This social contagion of smiles can create a positive and uplifting atmosphere, leading to a collective reduction in stress and an increase in happiness.
Give it a try. Smile right now at your desk, or sitting in a waiting room reading this on your phone, or later when you’re driving (the guy in the car next to you might think you’re weird but so what?), taking a walk, or making dinner.
I hope it brings a little joy and helps ease stress.
*It’s important to note that while smiling can help lower stress responses and improve mood, it is not a cure-all for serious mental health conditions. If you’re experiencing persistent stress, anxiety, or depression, it’s advisable to seek professional help from a healthcare provider.