Smiling--whether you FEEL happy or not--is good for your health: it slows down your heart and reduces stress. In fact, the very act of smiling makes us feel happier. Frowning does the opposite, which is why preventing people from frowning, with the use of Botox, can help cure depression.
Psychologist Richard J. Davidson is exploring whether activating the frowning muscle between the eyebrows, known as the corrugator, is associated with activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions such as fear. In the February 26th edition of the Wall Street Journal, Sumathi Reddy quotes him as saying, "What we find is that there's correlated activity but that doesn't mean that the production of the facial expression actually causes these changes in the brain."
Reddy quotes psychologist Sarah Pressman as saying, "We smile because we feel not threatened." Over time that message evolved so the muscle activity involved in a smile sends a message to the brain signaling safety, which translates into lower heart rate and stress levels.
She quotes researcher Eric Finzi as saying, "You can influence mental health by what you do with your face, whether you smile more or frown less."
Studies have shown that the intensity of a person's smile can help predict their life satisfaction over time and even how long they'll live.
Jogger Kyle Gorjanc found that when she forced herself to smile while running, the exertion was easier. Reddy quotes her as saying, "What happens is you actually find things to be happy about instead of just smiling for the sake of doing it."
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