Forcing a Smile Helps You Relax New study finds that it can decrease stress By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff Posted Jul 31, 2012 1:34 PM CDT Updated Aug 4, 2012 11:39 AM CDT 12 comments Comments This can actually help. (Shutterstock) (Newser) – Stressed? Try forcing a smile. It may seem weird, but a new study finds that it could actually help you relax, the Atlantic reports. Researchers, using chopsticks, manipulated the faces of 169 participants into either a neutral expression, a standard smile (only affects muscles around the mouth), or a Duchenne smile (the effect spreads to the eyes, and thus looks more genuine). Participants—some of whom were specifically told to smile—then completed a number of stressful activities while continuing to hold the chopsticks in their mouths. Monitoring heart rates and stress levels (as reported by the participants), researchers found that those with Duchenne smiles were the most relaxed during the experiment. Those who were told to smile also had lower heart rates than those who had neutral expressions, and even those whose standard smiles were formed by the chopsticks felt better than those who didn't smile.