Do you smile because you're happy, or does smiling make you happy?

In psychology, there is a theory called the "facial feedback hypothesis" which states, according to researchers D.A. Bernstein and his colleagues, that involuntary facial movements provide sufficient peripheral information to drive emotional experiences. Psychologists S. F. Davis and J.J. Palladindo explain that feedback from facial expression affects emotional expression and behavior. In simple terms, if you smile, you can actually improve your emotional mood.

R.B. Zajonc and his colleagues, reporting their research findings in the Psychological Review, found compelling evidence that smiling causes people to feel happy, regardless of how they felt at first. The researchers report that smiling leads to physiological changes in the brain that cool the blood, which in turn makes people feel happy. Researchers at the University of Munich studied subjects that had received botox treatments to their face. They found those subjects who had received botox treatments, when asked to either make an unhappy, neutral or relaxed face, reported more facial pain than subjects without botox treatments. These findings parallel the brain science research on mirror neurons, which show how mimicking the emotions, such as empathy toward another person can cause you to feel empathy. Studies by Robert Sutton at Stanford University have also shown that a smiling happy disposition by managers has a beneficial impact on employees and their work performance.

The research seems to give a partial answer to the chicken and egg question: do you smile because you're happy, or does smiling make you happy or happier? The research seems to point to increasing evidence of the mind-body connection. Michael Lewis, one of the authors of a research study on the subject at the University of Cardiff, concluded that our emotions are not just restricted to our brains, and there are parts of our bodies, such as our face, which has a large number of muscles, that help and reinforce the feelings we're having.

So the next time you want to feel happier, smile. Your brain and your face know what they're doing.

Author's Bio: 

Ray B. Williams is Co-Founder of Success IQ University and Ray Williams Associates, companies located in Vancouver and Phoenix, providing leadership training, personal growth and executive coaching services.