When I was down about something, my mom would always say "Smile, it will make you feel better." Of course, I being a wise teenager said "yeah right." But guess what, there are studies that suggest that my mom was right.
To experience the emotion of happiness, there is usually a trigger such as getting an A on your psychology exam. When you see this A, you experience physiological changes including a faster heart rate and an increase in blood flow. These changes in the body are sending a signal to your brain to create the emotion of happiness (Galan)
Now evaluate the situation of wanting to feel happy, even though you didn't get that elusive A on the Psych Exam. You tell yourself you are going to be happy anyway, but the physiological changes just aren't there to trigger this state of happiness. However, what if you smiled instead of just telling yourself to be happy? We learned about the Duchenne smile in our text book: "An upward tuning of the corners of the mouth, along with a drooping of the eyelids and crinkling of the corners of the eyes" (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Namy, and Woolf 410). The article entitled "Backwards Smiling: The Physiology of Happy" (Galan) describes that people who were trained to replicate the Duchenne smile could prompt the emotion of happiness without the initial outside trigger (i.e. receiving an A on your psych test). This Duchenne smile became the signal to the brain to create the feeling of happiness. Our text book addresses this with the facial feedback hypothesis, stating that Robert Zajonc theorizes that smiling changes the blood vessels in the face sending temperature feedback to the brain ((Lilienfeld, Lynn, Namy, and Woolf 415).
I really hope to feel the emotion of happiness by seeing an A on my next exam, but I'm going to smile even if I don't receive that A - in the hope of feeling some happiness. But, this makes me wonder if prompting the feeling of happiness with a Duchenne smile is as long lived as the feeling obtained from earning an A on the psych test.
Lilienfeld, Scott, Steven Lynn, Laura Namy, and Nancy Woolf. Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. Second Edition. Boston: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. 410 - 415. Print.
Galan, Tommy. "Backwards Smiling: The Physiology of Happy." Pick the Brain. 2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2011.