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Happiness Tip: Say Cheese

Say CheeseAre you documenting this Labor Day with lots of pictures? (My kids are certainly smiling–only 3 days of school and already a holiday!) Say cheese along with your friends and family and boost your own happiness in the process.

Here’s an amazing fact: facial expressions and body postures alone can actually make us feel. Facial expressions alone, without first feeling the corresponding emotions, are enough to create the discernible changes in your nervous system. Tighten your jaw and narrow your eyes as if you are really angry. Your body will usually release adrenaline and your heart rate will speed up as if you are actually angry. The same thing is true for positive emotions. This means that sometimes we should just smile, even if we don’t feel like it.

Take Action: Move your facial muscles so that you are technically smiling. When you lift up your lips and crinkle your eyes, your body will release all kinds of feel-good brain chemicals into your system after a couple of minutes. You can hold a pencil between your teeth or mimic the act and you will likely slow your heart rate and start to feel calmer, happier. Warning: I’ve found that the pencil clenching trick works, but it makes me drool.

Join the Discussion: Do you feel a little happier? Share in the comments.


  1. PeggyandMe says:

    I absolutely feel happier when I smile. I am always surprised so few people smile at others in our beautiful Bay Area. My 2 year old says hi to everyone yet there are maybe one or two people who don’t smile and say hi back to a 2 year old. Thanks for the info. I am curious to learn exactly what hormones or chemicals are released when the “smile” muscles are activated. In other words how exactly does the brain reaction occur when a smile is made?

  2. Roxanne says:

    When I practice smiling, it also seems to make me smile more spontaneously at other times. But, the pencil trick doesn’t work for me. Too uncomfortable. Did I get it right that you need to keep smiling for 2 minutes for the feel-good brain chemicals to be released?

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