Feeling good makes you smile but according to a study published in the Psychological Science journal, the reverse could also be true. Smiles are generally divided into two categories: so-called standard smiles, which use only the muscles surrounding the mouth, and real smiles, called Duchenne smiles, which works out the muscles surrounding the mouth and eyes. Combine with the right breathing techniques, it is smiling helps you fight stress instantly.
Smile against Stress
Psychologists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas conducted an experiment with 169 students to study how different types of smile and smile awareness affect the ability to recover from an episode of stress. They were subjected to stressful situations (drawing with the non-dominant hand a motif presented in a mirror or plunging a hand in a basin full of cold water) at the same time as they had to hold a wand in their mouth to engage the facial muscles used to create a neutral expression, a standard smile or a Duchenne smile. Only 50% of them received the explicit instruction to smile. Heart rates were measured, and participants reported their stress levels.
Smile can actually influence physical condition; the study results suggest. Compared to participants who had neutral facial expressions, those who had to smile, and in particular those who had to produce a Duchenne smile, had a lower heart rate after stressful activities. Those who held the chopsticks in a way that forced them to smile but did not have the explicit instruction to smile also reported a smaller decrease in positive effects than those who had neutral expressions. These results show that smiling during brief episodes of anxiety can help reduce the intensity of the body’s response to stress, regardless of feeling happy.
How to Breathe in order to Fight Stress?
As you may already know, there are breathing techniques for stress. Even if abdominal respiration is the most popular one, we recommend intermittent breathing. Both are effective to reduce stress instantly, but intermittent respiration can help you manage stress on the long run and adopt the right way of breathing on a daily basis. To perform it, inhale normally and hold your breath for 4 to 5 seconds before exhaling. You can do this exercise anytime and anywhere but for optimum results, choose a quiet place where you can clear your mind. Before and after each session which should last about 10 minutes, keep smiling even if you have to force yourself.