Going the extra smile to combat stress

How the simple act of smiling can actively reduce stress

Innovation

24 July 2018

As part of our aim to help people live happier, healthier lives, we wanted to take a serious look at ways to reduce stress.

Woman working on computer

After all, a recent study shows that 85% of adults in the UK regularly experience stress, with 39% admitting that this often reaches excessive levels1.

However, it turns out that a serious expression may not be helping…

One of the 560+ projects supported by the AXA Research Fund is an innovative programme led by Dr Sarah Pressman at the University of Irvine in California.

She has been investigating whether positive emotions can be effective against different types of stress. In particular, whether the simple act of smiling can have a significant impact.

It’s an idea which turns conventional thinking on its head; normally we would think that less stress leads to more smiling, rather than the other way round.

But as Dr Pressman explains in the following short film, even a fake smile can bring results:

It seems that grinning really does help us to bear it.

And there are tangible health benefits beyond the reduction of stress. Smiling can produce a whole range of positive physiological responses, including a lower heart rate, a boost to the immune system and greater tolerance to physical pain.

Learn more about Dr Pressman’s work by watching this video, or find out about the other life-enhancing projects supported by the AXA Research Fund.

We really hope they put a smile on your face.

1Research conducted by Forth in January 2018