Is the old adage “grin and bear it” supported by scientific research?
Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas found, in their research, that smiling could be a way to help us cope with stressful situations. They discovered that smiling during brief periods of stress may help us relax and feel better even if we don’t feel happy.
A few years ago, I had to videotape myself teaching for a graduate class that I was taking. I was required to video a lesson that I taught to an honors math class. Not only was it stressful to teach the content of this class, but recording the class was stressful as well. As I was reviewing the video, one thing I noticed surprised me: my facial expressions and body language were extremely intense. I’m not sure I smiled one time during the entire lesson. I realized that my poor students had to endure this day after day.
Just a simple smile would have brought joy to my students and me, and probably created a less stressful situation for all of us!
Based on the experiment conducted by Kraft and Pressman, the simple act of smiling may help us feel more relaxed during those stressful situations in which we all find ourselves. There are other benefits we can enjoy by developing the habit of smiling, intentionally—even when we don’t feel like it.
3 Reasons to Smile More
1. It makes you more approachable. Smiling makes other people around you feel more relaxed and comfortable. Smiling is a great way to connect with others. Not only are you perceived to be friendlier, you actually become a friendlier person when you smile more often. Others feel safe with you and trust you more.
2. It’s a universal language. Everyone understands and appreciates a smile. No matter where you are or who you are communicating with, a smile is appreciated. Have you ever found yourself around people with whom you did not speak the same language? The best and most effective way to put everyone at ease in that situation is a smile.
3. It reduces stress. Research has shown that smiling helps us relax in a stressful situations. Our heart rates go down, our blood pressure goes down and we get a boost to our immune system. Smiling creates positive energy that is contagious. Best of all smiling makes us look younger!
Try this experiment suggested by Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Smile at someone every hour of the day for a week. See what happens. You might just be surprised!
“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.”
– William Arthur
Question: Did you try the experiment? Did you notice how people reacted? Was it easier to connect with people? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.