I'd like you to participate in a simple experiment. Stay right where you are—don't move. Now frown. Go on, turn the sides of your mouth down. Way down. A heel just came off your favorite pair of shoes. It's your birthday and your friends forgot. Deep frown. Hold it.
How do you feel?
Okay, now smile. Let the corners of your lips slide heavenward. The potted orchid you thought you'd killed has suddenly exploded in a profusion of blossoms. The surprise party is for you. Big smile. Hold it.
Here's why: A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Research has shown that smiling and laughing cause physiological changes in your body. "When a person has a true, heartfelt smile, it does more than put her in touch with her own inner joy," says Doe Lang, PhD, a New York City psychotherapist who specializes in nonverbal communication. "There's a reduction in cortisol, a chemical that indicates stress in the body, and an increase in mood-elevating endorphins. On a social level, an honest smile defuses hostility and draws people near you." These short-term effects may have long-term benefits. A recent study at the University of California at Berkeley, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that women who had smiled the most in their college yearbook photos had happier lives, happier marriages, and fewer personal setbacks in the following 30 years.