The AMA MorningRounds item of interest was a story about how smiling might be good for your cardiovascular health. It was taken from a prominent medical journal, the Wall Street Journal .The study, was published in the November 2012 issue of the journal Psychological Science, showed that smiling can slow down the heart and reduce stress. And it can make you feel happier.
Sarah Pressman, the co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at University of California, Irvine said that making a full smile works better than making a polite smile–but the differences between those two were not statistically significant. It begged the question of whether faking a smile could work as well, at least until you get the hang of the real thing.
The story even cites a study showing that preventing people from frowning by using Botox can help alleviate depression.
I learned there are at least a couple of different brands of smiles. The full smile is called the Duchenne smile, after the 19th century French neurologist who first described it. The Pan Am smile is the usual polite smile. The former activates muscles around the mouth and eyes, the latter just around the mouth.
Paul Ekman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, says the Duchenne smile “generates the physiology of positive emotion and the changes in the brain” linked with spontaneous fun. You might be familiar with Dr. Ekman’s work on catching subtle facial expressions, which you can learn more about at Home | Paul Ekman Group, LLC.
Sometimes, we all need a break. Take a deep breath…and just smile.
1. Reddy, S. (2013) Stress-Busting Smiles: A Genuine Grin Can Help the Heart; Is Polite Faking Enough to See Benefits? The Wall Street Journal. Stress-Busting Smiles – WSJ.com