University of Kansas psychological scientists, Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman, have published a recent study in Psychological Science that suggests that wearing a smile during stressful periods may actually be beneficial for your heart.
Previous studies have demonstrated that frequent smiling can help improve disposition, but now the benefits of smiling reach beyond the emotional field. Kraft and Pressman instructed volunteers how to hold their faces in a neutral expression or to hold a smile. Some volunteers were even instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths to force their muscles to express a smile. After instruction, the volunteers were asked to perform various multi-tasking actives. Unbeknownst to the volunteers, these activities were designed to increase stress levels.
Researchers found that the volunteers who were engaged in these activities while smiling had lower heart rates and quicker recovery from stressful activities than those who held their faces in a neutral expression. Even the volunteers who were instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths to force their muscles to smile (but had not actually been asked to smile), demonstrated lower recovery heart rates than the volunteers who held their faces in a neutral expression.
Kraft and Pressman state that their findings suggest that smiling during stressful periods may help reduce the body’s overall stress response, despite what emotions the individual may feel.
For those living with Heart Disease, wearing a smile may be one of the best accessories to a healthy lifestyle and regular communications with your health care professional.