Smile, You’ll Feel Happier
Node Smith, ND
A recent article supports the notion that simply smiling can actually make people feel happier.1 The conclusion comes from a team of research psychologists who combined data from 138 studies of over 11,000 people and found that the facial expressions we use do have a small impact on the feelings we experience.
The paper follows a half century of data testing facial expressions and influence on corresponding emotion
Coauthored by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Texas A&M, the paper follows a half century of data testing whether facial expressions can lead people to feel the emotions related to those expressions.
“Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl,” said Nicholas Coles, UT PhD student in social psychology and lead researcher on the paper. “But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years.”
A 100-year-old disagreement among psychologists may finally be resolved
This disagreement increased in 2016 when a team of researchers failed to replicate a well-known experiment demonstrating that the physical act of smiling can make people happier.
“Some studies have not found evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings,” Coles said. “But we can’t focus on the results of any one study. Psychologists have been testing this idea since the early 1970s, so we wanted to look at all the evidence.”
What the current meta-analysis supports
This current meta-analysis does support that facial expressions have a small impact on feelings, that smiling makes people feel happier, and scowling makes them feel angrier.
“We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness,” Coles said. “But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion. We still have a lot to learn about these facial feedback effects, but this meta-analysis put us a little closer to understanding how emotions work.”
- Nicholas A. Coles, Jeff T. Larsen, Heather C. Lench. A meta-analysis of the facial feedback literature: Effects of facial feedback on emotional experience are small and variable.. Psychological Bulletin, 2019; DOI: 10.1037/bul0000194
Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and associate editor and continuing education director for NDNR. His mission is serving relationships that support the process of transformation, and that ultimately lead to healthier people, businesses and communities. His primary therapeutic tools include counselling, homeopathy, diet and the use of cold water combined with exercise. Node considers health to be a reflection of the relationships a person or a business has with themselves, with God and with those around them. In order to cure disease and to heal, these relationships must be specifically considered. Node has worked intimately with many groups and organizations within the naturopathic profession, and helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR), which works to promote and facilitate experiential education in vitalism.
Node Smith graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in 2017, and is currently licensed as a naturopathic physician in Oregon and working towards becoming licensed in Saskatchewan, Canada as well.