281 Smiling, the Best Medicine?

Based on research done by Labroo, A. Aparna., Mukhopadhyay, Anirban., & Dong, Ping. (2014) written by Bethany Wellman, M.S.

Is smiling really the best medicine?

Prior research indicates that smiling can enhance positive feelings. Increased air flow, cools blood to the brain and activates the frontal cortex. People often associate smiling with happiness. Is this true for everyone?

Researchers tested over 250 individuals across 3 studies examining the impact of smiling on wellbeing. One study examined beliefs about smiling and the frequency in which smiling predicted wellbeing. The second examined facial activity in relationship to happiness. The third examined how beliefs about smiling impacted happiness.  This study postulated that people smile not only to endorse happiness but also to mask a negative emotion or to evoke happiness.

Findings indicate that frequent smiling does not cause happiness as the impact a smile has on wellbeing is determined by the individual’s theory on why smiling occurs. If someone associates smiling with faking happiness, they usually feel decreased happiness after smiling, thus reducing wellbeing. Findings even suggest that smiling more often can make a person less happy, thus declining wellbeing.

Smiling is only the best medicine if it comes from true happiness; not a mask to cover negative emotions or an attempt to bring about happiness. Smile when you’re happy!


Labroo, A. A., Mukhopadhyay, A., & Dong, P. (2014). Not always the best medicine: Why frequent smiling can reduce wellbeing. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology53, 156-162.

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