Smiling really DOES make you happier: Study finds expressing happiness influences the brain to generate positive feelings
- For decades, researchers have studied how acting happy could influence happiness
- A team at the University of Tennessee has analyzed 50 years of data on the subject
- They found there is a clear connection between acting happy and feeling happy
- But they warn the connection is not very strong
Smiling really can make people feel happier, according to a new study.
American psychologists looked at nearly 50 years of data testing whether facial expressions can lead people to feel the emotions related to those expressions.
They found smiling made people feel happier, scowling made them feel angrier, and frowning made them feel sadder.
However, the effects are not very strong, and the researchers warn this should hardly be held up as a way to offset debilitating mental health conditions like depression.
Researchers have found a connection between smiling and subsequent feelings of happiness
Lead researcher Nicholas Coles, a University of Tennessee PhD student, said: ‘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.
‘But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years.’
The research team say the disagreements became more pronounced in 2016, when 17 teams of researchers failed to replicate a well-known experiment showing that the physical act of smiling can make people feel happier.
Coles, who studies social psychology, said: ‘Some studies have not found evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings.
‘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.’
Using a statistical technique called meta-analysis, the team combined data from 138 studies testing more than 11,000 participants from all around the world.
The results of the meta-analysis suggest that facial expressions have a small impact on feelings.
Coles added: ‘We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness.
‘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.’