When I was a kid – still shiny and new – my best friend, "Small Paul" I called him, once bopped me on the head as I was giving him a funny face (one of my best facial talents was my ability to pick my nose with my tongue, but somehow that lost it’s cuteness as I aged). I shot Small Paul my signature sassy look and asked him, "What was that for?"
"I was just trying to help you," he said as he pulled up his classic cotton knee socks with the colored rings around the top. "If you hold a funny face too long, your face will freeze that way."
It didn’t take me too long to figure out that this act of consideration, albeit odd, was based on a false premise. Your face will not, in fact, freeze up if you hold a funny pose for too long. While Small Paul was wrong in this case, he said something else not too long after this first piece of advice that has some actual basis in science: "Smile. It’s good for you."
A psychological theory called the "facial feedback" hypothesis posits that you can actually improve your mood by simply smiling. That’s it, you ask? Yep, feeling better about your day is as simple as exercising a few muscles in your face – 26 muscles to be exact (incidentally, frowning uses 62 muscles). I’m serious – several other psychological studies suggest this is credible advice.
(And for the "Angry Eds" of this audience, the aforementioned hypothesis works similarly for angry faces. In one study, participants were asked to make an angry face, which caused increased blood flow to the hands and feet. These effects are also seen in people who are experiencing anger.)
Smiling has several other benefits as well: it relieves stress, lowers blood pressure, boosts your immune system and makes you appear more confident. It’s also contagious.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because it’s never been simpler to brighten someone’s day. By just “turning that frown upside-down,” you might improve your own mood, and even better, you might help make a DIFF in someone else’s day (and bestow those other fantastic benefits as well).
So give it a try, if not for yourself, for someone else. (And if you find that it made a difference in your day, or someone else’s day, report back! Let’s put this theory to the test.)