Thursday, November 10, 2011

One minute to tricking yourself into a better mood

This little "mood hack" has been the subject of ongoing research, and it has supporters and detractors just like many other theories. The idea is this: if you're feeling a little down, putting a smile on your face will trick your mind into thinking that you're happier. As a result, you'll feel happier, and eventually that smile will be more genuine.

Research on this idea has been conducted in several ways. One of the most notable studies had people clasp a pencil in their teeth, forcing their mouth into a smile. Try it! Just as shallow breathing sends a panic message (something must be wrong! I'm breathing rapidly!), a smile sends a message of improved mood. The most damning research in opposition is pretty weak stuff, mostly saying "we don't think it works all that great."

So, let's try this: either put a half-smile on your face and keep it there for a minute, or better yet, hold a pencil in your mouth, using your molars to clamp down on it. Your mouth will be pulled back into a smile, your brow will change, and you'll FEEL the smile on your face. Hold it for a minute or two, and see what happens. At worst, you'll just have the taste of pencil in your mouth for a while.

At best, though, you'll have a learned a ridiculously easy way to get a little mood boost.

An interesting offshoot of this facial feedback research is the mounting evidence that botox treatments can actually impact mood and cognition due to LACK of feedback. But that's another story for another day.

For now... smile!


  1. I suffer from depression - Usually I'm okay because I've learned to deal with it on my own, but I get some pretty bad low points. I can't stand how anti-depressants make me feel, and I don't think I really need them. But every few months it just gets really bad for a week or so. I'm doing really good right now, but the next time I have a bit of a dip in mood, I'll give this a shot and report back. :)

  2. Av3ry - the thing about this is that it's probably NOT the greatest in terms of fighting depression - maybe more for a case of the grumps on any given day.

    On the other hand, any edge you can get when you're battling the blues can be helpful. Let me know what you think!

  3. This is good to know because with me, once i get in a really bad or sad mood, it often takes a lot to pull me out, but this just could work...:)

  4. Yeah, that's why I'm going to go for it - it's worth a shot :) Especially if it's really bad, forcing myself to smile is way more than I usually do about it, heh. But yeah. It usually starts with a case of the grumps, maybe this could stall it? Or make it shorter, or less soul-crushing? haha.

  5. I don't remember where I stumbled across this little gem but it is something I've been doing for years... and it works! When things are a bit dreary or I'm feeling off I make myself smile and it's like a little boost for the day. Thanks for posting about it.

  6. Brie... thanks for reading! Facial feedback theory has been around for a while, and try as they might, they can't discredit it. :)

    Feel free to click the little Facebook share button down there. Spread the word!

  7. I feel absolutely ridiculous right now, but I'm grinning. I'll have to try it on a bad day and see how well it works.

  8. We learned about the half-smile in a DBT-based therapy group I did last year. It really helps!

  9. Ghostlove - yeah, that's a good old Marsha Linehan DBT skill - the Mona Lisa smile. :)

    Thanks for reading!

  10. Hello, excellent blog! Not only is the content of your posts impressive, but it is also great to see you reply to comments! (nobody seems to do that anymore...)

    Anyway, working in private security, confrontation is almost part of my job. Over time, I have found that smiling not only disarms the other person's defensive stance (making my job MUCH easier), I also find myself considerably more emotionally resilient throughout my day.

    I could only imagine what people think when I walk away smiling from a situation where I'm "supposed" to be angry!

  11. Felix - thanks for the comment, and thanks for reading. Please feel free to share the blog with anyone you think might appreciate it.

    And, yeah, anger might not be a choice, but expressing the anger certainly is. :)