Grin and bear it for good health

smile

A new study reveals a smile and heart health connection. Holding a smile during periods of stress may help heart health.

Smiling is a positive signal

Psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas looked at how different types of smiling, and the awareness of smiling affect the ability to recover from stressful events. It seems the old adage “grin and bear it” may relate to the positive signal that happiness gives to others as well as a time honored way of doping with life’s stresses.

The standard versus Duchenne smile

Kraft and Pressman are the first researchers to look at different types of smiles to see what effect they had on stress. They worked with two types: standard smiles where only the mouth shapes the smile and genuine or Duchenne smiles where muscles around the face and eyes form a smile.

Researchers recruited 169 volunteers for two stages of experiments. The first, training stage taught volunteers how to hold various facial expressions including the two types of smiles. During the second, testing phase, they performed stressful tasks using the expressions they learned. Their heart rates were monitored at the same time.

Heart recovery faster for people who smile

Researchers found that people who were instructed to smile, especially those using the Duchenne smile, had lower heart rates after recovery from the stress activity. Even volunteers who had a forced smile (by biting chopsticks) had a lower recovery heart rate compared to those with neutral expressions.

“Grin and bear it” has merit after all. Something we can all remember during the stressful times in our lives.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Psychological Science

 
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