What should you do when you’re feeling blue? Turn that frown upside down. New research suggests smiling can make you feel happy.

Usually we smile because we’re happy, but the opposite can be true as well according to new research from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Encouraging your moody tot to say cheese might actually do more than result in a cute picture, it could put them in a better mood.

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photo: Jose Ibarra via Unsplash

A team of psychologists examined data from 138 studies across 50 years which included over 11,000 participants and found that facial expressions have a small impact on our emotions. “Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl,” said Nicholas Coles, UT PhD student in social psychology and lead researcher on the paper. “But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years.”

According to the results of their analysis different facial expressions can have a small impact on the way people feel. For example, scowling can make you feel angrier and smiling can make you feel happier.

“We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness,” Coles said. “But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion. We still have a lot to learn about these facial feedback effects, but this meta-analysis put us a little closer to understanding how emotions work.”

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—Shahrzad Warkentin

 

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