Feeling Down? Smile!
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
We could all learn something from Stephan Coard, a 50-year-old man in Australia. Despite being homeless for almost half of his adult life, Coard maintains a positive attitude by smiling.
On a public street, he sits with a sign that reads, “Smile. It’s free,” according to one report. Along with the sign, he also makes sure to display his big grin.
“You have to want to be happy. I think everybody does. The key is you can choose that,” he said.
“I’ve been doing this for two and a half years and eventually I found the way to (positive) mental health and it helps a great deal. I don’t have bad day now. I have bad moments but I can move on at any time I choose.”
And there actually may be some scientific evidence to back this up.
Have you ever heard the saying: You’re never fully dressed without a smile? Well, you may or may not believe that to be true, however, recent research conducted by the University of South Australia found evidence which showed that smiling can help improve your mood.
According to this Medical Xpress report discussing the study, “...the act of smiling can trick your mind into being more positive, simply by moving your facial muscles.”
So even if you are feeling sad and down, just smile.
The researchers induced smiles in the study participants by having them hold a pen between their teeth. This made their facial muscles move in the same way that they would if they were naturally smiling.
Turns out, this movement of facial muscles may have a very powerful impact on the brain.
"In our research we found that when you forcefully practice smiling, it stimulates the amygdala—the emotional center of the brain—which releases neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state. For mental health, this has interesting implications. If we can trick the brain into perceiving stimuli as 'happy', then we can potentially use this mechanism to help boost mental health," said Dr. Marmolejo-Ramos, one of the lead researchers involved.
Smiling has even been associated with a longer life. It may even lower your heart rate, reduce blood pressure and promote relaxation. It may be just the “medicine” that we need.
“A psychotherapy technique to cope with sad feelings is to practice smiling for a few minutes each day. If a full smile is not possible, a half-smile works as well. Notice any impact on your thoughts, mood, and level of optimism,” according to Harvard Health.I'm sorry if it's annoying to tell you to smile, but smile!
If you have been feeling down and depressed lately, and so many of us are due to the threat of COVID-19, it might not be a bad idea to try to smile more. I know this may feel like an annoying thing to be told to do, and I’m not saying that you have to smile to the point that your face hurts, but anything that has the potential to positively impact our mental health is certainly worth it.
With that said, of course smiling will not cure everything. It is also extremely important to help prevent or cope with depression and mood disorders by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Good nutrition and physical exercises are two very powerful methods.
Obviously, our brains affect our moods. And what we eat affects our brains. So if you eat a diet full of nutrient-void, processed foods, this may cause inflammation in the brain and contribute to depressive symptoms. On the other hand, a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, as in plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, helps prevent chronic inflammation that can contribute to depression. Inflammation is believed to be the root cause of a myriad of diseases.
Movement is also key. Research has shown that just one hour of exercise per week may help keep depression away. Endorphins, which are chemicals that are released from the brain during exercise, may help relieve pain and may also promote feelings of pleasure and euphoria. And the great thing about exercise is that you can choose an activity that suits you. I personally like hiking and golf.
It is also extremely important to avoid smoking, drink alcohol in moderation (if at all) and get plenty of good quality sleep.
Finally, I highly recommend taking routine nutrient tests in order to determine if you have any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. If you do, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
Check out this pH Labs blog about eight minerals that may help you cope with depression.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.