In 1872, Charles Darwin wrote:[i]
“The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.”
This is among the earliest references to the significant benefit of a fake smile, as donning a grin — even if you’re not necessarily happy — may impact your emotions in a very good way.
In fact, you smile when you’re happy, naturally, but the opposite may also hold true in that you may become happier when you smile.
One of the emerging risks of Botox is actually related to this, as the injections (which paralyze certain facial muscles) are linked to dampened emotional responses, including a small decrease in your ability to feel joy.[ii]
This is what’s so fascinating about a seemingly simple smile. Just the act of altering your facial expression seems to prompt biochemical changes throughout your body, even if you’re ‘faking it.
A smile is free and it takes virtually no effort … so why not fake one today?
Faking It: 6 Benefits of Fake Smiles
6. Feel Happier: Fake smiles lead to changes in brain activity that correspond with happier moods (this is from a “Duchenne smile” — the kind that’s so big it makes your eyes squint a little).[iii]
5. Beat Stress: Smiling while under stress (like when you’re stuck in a traffic jam) can lessen the intensity of your body’s stress response, including lower heart rate[iv]
3. Boost Creativity: People are more creative when they’re in a happy mood,[vii] and since faking a smile can make you happier, it stands to reason that it could make you more creative, too.
2. Get Out of Trouble: If you smile after breaking a rule, you’ll likely be treated with more leniency — even if the smile isn’t genuine.[viii]
1. Broaden Cognition: Smiling leads to a broadened cognitive state and increased attentional flexibility that may help you to see the forest instead of the trees.[ix]
There is one caveat to fake smiles, however. If you feel forced to plaster on a fake smile at length, such as throughout a long workday as a customer service worker, it is actually linked to worse mood, withdrawal and decreased productivity.[x] Workers who smile because they’ve focused on positive thoughts (like a vacation or a child) do benefit from boosts in mood, though.
So while a fake smile is generally good, bolstering your fake smile with positive thoughts may be even better.
And even better, still, is smiling genuinely because you’re just that happy … if it’s been awhile since you couldn’t stop smiling, perhaps stress is getting in the way and even interfering with your physical health and memory.
You can find top natural tips to improve your memory and sharpen your mind here.