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The Psychology of Smiling - University of the Rockies professor offers tips for feeling better in any situation

DENVER, May 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Smiling comes naturally when you're happy, an outward expression of the joy within. In fact, the physical act of putting on a smile seems to be a mood booster.

Why? Studies suggest that smiling activates areas of the brain associated with reward and triggers release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Smiling also appears to stimulate responses in areas of the brain involving cognition and emotional processing. Plus, there appears to be a link between smiling and factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, and other stress level indicators.

So, the next time you're stuck in traffic, waiting on hold or dealing with a rude salesperson, consider smiling. It might make you feel better and even lower your blood pressure a little.

Dr. David Solly, a professor at University of the Rockies, a graduate institution specializing in social and behavioral sciences, offers these tips for using smiling for better well-being, especially to overcome tension:

  • Remind yourself to smile, especially in stressful situations. Smiling is good for the muscles in the face and it is difficult to maintain anger when you smile.
  • If you find it difficult to smile, use a prop, such as a silly picture of someone wearing a goofy grin. Paste it on card stock and attach it to a stick so you can hold it like a lollipop. Carry it with you or keep it in your car and look at it when you are sitting at a stoplight or waiting in a long line. Hold it up to your face and turn and look at bystanders or other drivers while holding the smile in front of you. (This technique makes most people laugh or smile, but it does elicit a few rude salutes as well. Oh, well, some people take themselves far too seriously.)
  • Visualize what gives you a sense of joy or peace, such as places that you have visited and enjoyed, your favorite hobbies, activities, pleasant memories of a concert, athletic event, or a personal victory. Use the time to visualize and plan an upcoming project.
  • Look around and take in your surroundings. Often you will see new and different things that you've never noticed before.
  • Keep a healthy perspective on the current situation and remind yourself that things could always be worse. If you're inching along in traffic, imagine yourself riding across the country in a horse-drawn coach or wagon or train where heat and air conditioning was unheard of and the top speed was 15 miles per hour.
  • Remember, all that can really aggravate you are your own thoughts about what happens to you or around you. Nothing is really that dire or important. Remind yourself to smile, laugh and enjoy.

As all mothers with babies, BFFs and care givers know, smiling usually elicits positive feelings and often sparks a positive reaction in others.

"Research is ongoing into the science behind the phenomenon of smiling, and we are coming to understand more about the role that smiling plays in our own minds and bodies, as well as in the minds and bodies of others," said Solly.

About University of the Rockies

University of the Rockies is an advanced graduate institution for tomorrow's thought leaders. The University provides an intimate and dynamic learning environment, offering highly specialized master's and doctoral degree programs in the social and behavioral sciences, access to industry experts, campus clinical programs for practical experience, and research and publishing opportunities. University of the Rockies is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association ( Small by design, University of the Rockies classes are presented in a progressive online format, at its Colorado Springs, Colorado, campus and at its Denver instructional site. For more information, please visit or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 866.621.0124 x2513.

Contact: Shari Winet Rodriguez, Vice President of Public Relations
866.621.0124 x2513 -

SOURCE University of the Rockies