One Thing Anyone Can Do to Get Instantly Happier

By Caitlin O'Connell

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There are quirky New York City moments—for example, commuting on a crowded subway next to a man clipping his fingernails—that, even as a lifelong New Yorker, really get to me. But according to a recent article in the Atlantic a new study titled “Grin and Bear It” in the journal Psychological Science showed that even a forced smile can help relieve everyday stress.

Here’s what happened: researchers asked 169 participants to hold chopsticks in their mouths, then told them to hold a variety of expressions including a blank face, a standard smile, and a Duchenne smile (also known as a genuine smile, visible from the muscles around your mouth to your eyes). That’s the “grin” part. Then, “bear it”: the subjects performed a series of stressful activities while trying to hold the chopsticks in their mouths. The results? Participants who were told to smile to recovered from the stress more quickly than those who didn’t; and those who had forced smiles were more positive than those who didn’t smile at all. Lesson learned. I’ll be trying this on the train tonight.

Photo credit: © Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Thinkstock

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