Smiling teens

Smile! Your Heart Needs It.

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It is said that laughter is the best medicine, and smiling is good for the soul, but does it bring us real physical health benefits?

A new study suggests that not only that smiling can improve stress response, it also aids in keeping your heart healthy.

A study was made at the University of Kansas by Tara Kraft, graduate student, and Sarah Pressman, PhD, assistant professor of psychology.

The research involves 169 participants to undergo training to hold a particular facial expression. The participants held chopsticks with their teeth in order to create the expression. Some held a neutral expression, while others held a smile. Only half of smiling participants were told that they were smiling, the others were not aware of the purpose of the chopsticks.

The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment.

Some participants were instructed to smile with only muscles around their mouth while others were instructed to smile using muscles near their mouth and eyes. These smiles using more muscles are known as genuine, or Duchenne smiles.

Research have shown that those who were smiling had lower heart rates and stress levels during the activities, even if they were not aware that they were smiling. As such, the more muscles used in a smile, the greater benefit to stress response and heart health.

Additionally, smilers showed shorter times before their heart rate returned to normal. Those holding Duchenne smiles showed the greatest benefit.

"The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress," says Pressman, "you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment. Not only will it help you 'grin and bear it' psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!"