How Smiling Can Reduce Stress

Written by:

published on:

Updated on:


Note: Your support drives Find-A-Therapist. We earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

Looking for a therapist?

Up until about the early 1970s (and maybe even the mid to late 1960s), the overwhelming majority of people were taught to bury their true feelings about as deep as humanly possible within themselves while showing a smiley face to the rest of the world.

For a whole bunch of different (now realized as completely crazy) reasons, even top psychiatrists of the day tended to pass this advice along to their patients. Ignore your feelings, bottle it up as much as you could, and hope that you didn’t spring a leak during a holiday party or after a little bit of drinking.

Obviously, we now understand that there are next to no real advantages to burying your emotions in the sand and trying to ignore everything that you are feeling.

Of course, you aren’t going to want to walk right down the street with your heart out on your sleeve 99.99% of the time – not unless you want people to think you are a little bit unbalanced – but you’re going to want to make sure that you understand your emotions, why you feel that way, and take the necessary approach to unburden yourself from stress and pressure.

And boy are we all dealing with a lot more stress and pressure than pretty much anyone else in human history.

Our lives today are tremendously uncertain, whether it’s in our personal lives when all of the “traditional” approaches to dating and romance have gone out the window or our professional lives, when safety and security in the job world is absolutely nonexistent.

Eliminating that extra stress and pressure has proven to be a real challenge for most, but you may be surprised to learn that “faking it until you make it” – and smiling through the pain – can have transformative benefits that will give you the kind of happy, healthy, and well-adjusted lifestyle you’ve always wanted.

Let’s dive right in!

Explore emotional well-being with BetterHelp – your partner in affordable online therapy. With 30,000+ licensed therapists and plans starting from only $65 per week, BetterHelp makes self-care accessible to all. Complete the questionnaire to match with the right therapist.

Note: We collaborate with top-tier mental health companies and receive advertising fees from purchases through the BetterHelp links.

Is it Really Possible to Smile Your Way to a Stress-Free Lifestyle?

There is a world of difference between “faking it until you make it” to help you build your confidence, to help you wash away your stress, and to smile away your pain and taking the kind of crazy advice that the late 60s and early 70s psychiatrists were advising in burying everything you were dealing with and ignoring it as much as you could.

Today, you’re going to want to acknowledge the pain that you are dealing with, accept any and all issues that you are fighting with, and choose – not ignore, but choose – to smile throughout it all, looking specifically for any and all positives that a particular situation presents.

You had better believe that it’s possible to smile your way to a better lifestyle, and you had better believe that the physical act of smiling can have a psychological impact on your body, going so far as to release “happiness” chemicals and hormones in your body to make you feel better no matter what you’re going through.

The science backs it up.

Smiling Stress Reduction

Science Backs the Smiling Stress Reduction Program Completely

Though there are numerous studies already in the medical journals that prove smiling – the physical act of smiling alone – can dramatically improve your overall mood and well-being while at the same time trigger stress killing enzymes in the body, one of the most thorough and impressive studies was conducted by two psychologists at the University of Kansas.

This study took place over a period of five years, and analyzed a group of individuals that were encouraged to do one thing and one thing only when they were feeling stressed out:

  • To smile as widely as humanly possible for at least 60 seconds and then to record how they felt afterwards

Brain scans were commissioned, chemical analysis of their blood was undertaken, and there was a direct correlation between those that did smile as widely as humanly possible for at least 60 seconds and those that felt absolutely fantastic – even though they were stressed out just a single minute before.

As mentioned above, this is only one study (there have been hundreds conducted all over the world), but the information was so impressive that it was published in a variety of medical journals and even earned quite a bit of real estate in the Smithsonian magazine.

Science definitely backs up the belief that simply smiling can reduce stress dramatically

You really can “fake it till you make it” with a smiling stress reducer program

If you want to be able to take advantage of this research, you’ll want to follow in the footsteps of that program put together by those psychologists at the University of Kansas.

What you’ll want to do is train yourself to recognize when you’re feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, and more than a little bit “under the gun” and then smile as wide as possible for at least 60 seconds.

The first couple of times you give this a shot the odds are pretty good that you’re going to feel at least a little bit goofy. But if you really pushed through that initial awkwardness, you’ll find that you are almost immediately a lot more relaxed, better prepared to tackle regular stress and pressure, and be in a fantastic position to push forward without feeling overwhelmed any longer.

Laughter Really Just Might Be The Best Medicine Out There

At the end of the day, there may be a lot more to the old saying “laughter is the best medicine” than most of modern medical professionals believe.

More research is obviously necessary, but it’s exciting to know that you can completely change the way you’re feeling just by “going through the motions” of smiling.

If you want to try this out for yourself, simply follow the instructions we’ve outlined above the next time that you’re feeling a little bit stressed out. The odds are pretty good that you’ll immediately feel better, and that over there with some practice) this becomes your “go to” solution to reduce your stress almost instantly.

See our complete list of stress management techniques.

Take the stress test!

Join the Find-a-therapist community and get access to our free stress assessment!

Additional Resources

Prioritizing our mental well-being is paramount in today’s fast-paced world. The digital age has redefined therapy and psychiatric care, making support more accessible than ever. To guide you towards a healthier state of mind, we’ve partnered with pioneering names in mental health.
Note: We collaborate with top-tier mental health companies and we earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

Online Therapy

Discover a path to emotional well-being with BetterHelp – your partner in convenient and affordable online therapy. With a vast network of 30,000+ licensed therapists, they’re committed to helping you find the one to support your needs. Take advantage of their Free Online Assessment, and connect with a therapist who truly understands you. Begin your journey today.

Relationship Counceling

Whether you’re facing communication challenges, trust issues, or simply seeking to strengthen your connection, ReGain’s experienced therapists are here to guide you and your partner toward a healthier, happier connection from the comfort of your own space. Get started.

Therapist Directory

Discover the perfect therapist who aligns with your goals and preferences, allowing you to take charge of your mental health. Whether you’re searching for a specialist based on your unique needs, experience level, insurance coverage, budget, or location, our user-friendly platform has you covered. Search here.

About the author

I'm an avid reader and love anything to do with mindfulness and mental health!

You might also be interested in


In some articles, we include products we think are useful for our readers. When you buy through these links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Information on our website is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a mental healthcare professional.

Online Therapy, Your Way

Discover the ease of starting therapy with BetterHelp. Complete the assessment and connect with a licensed professional therapist online.
Note: We earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.