Smile For Pain Relief: 10 Reasons To Smile More (Even If It's Fake)

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Did you know that smiling is scientifically proven to help reduce the feeling of pain? Smiling has many other benefits too! 

Put a smile on your face, even if you’re faking it. A fake smile, also called a covert or Duchenne smile, uses the same muscles as a real smile. Studies have show that even if the smile is fake, the physical act of smiling activates brain centres that influence emotions. The muscles used in creating a smile, actually create a reduction of the stress response in the body.  

What happens when we smile?

The brain releases potent neuropeptides which improve communication. Neuropeptides act slowly but produce a prolonged response. Examples are oxytocin and vasopressin.


The brain also releases neurotransmitters which act quickly to boost mood Examples are dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. 

These neuropeptides and neurotransmitters create positive effects both physically and psychologically. 

Benefits of Smiling

  1. Elevates your mood. In a 2020 study, one group of participants were instructed to hold a pen in their mouths, activating a Duchenne smile, while others held a pen between their lips in order to prevent a smile. The study found that a happy facial expression can influence the mind to perceive a happier state [1].

  2. Relieves Stress. A 2012 study at Midwestern University looked at the stress response of manipulated facial expressions. Some study participants were asked to hold chopsticks in their mouths, to create a Duchenne smile. Other participants were asked to smile explicitly. At the same time, participants had to carry out a stressful task while their stress responses were monitored. The study revealed that all smiling participants whether the smile was real or fake, had lower heart rates during the the stressful task that the neutral group. The study concluded that there are both physiological and psychological benefits of maintaining positive facial expressions during stress [2].

  3. Boosts the immune system. Smiling improves emotional states which has been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system. Many studies have evaluated the effect of emotional states on the immune system by modulating cytokine production [3].

  4. Can lower blood pressure. Laughter, particularly, has been shown to lower blood pressure. Laughter has been shown to induce therapeutic benefits across a range of areas including geriatrics, oncology, critical care, psychiatry, rheumatology, and general patient care [4]. If you have a blood pressure monitor at home you could try testing this out for yourself. Test your blood pressure before and after a good 10-15 minutes of laughing and see if there is a noticeable change.

  5. Lower pain. A 2020 study evaluated the effects of various facial expressions including genuine smiles, Duchenne (fake) smiles, grimaces and neutral expression while receiving a needle injection. Factors evaluated included heart rate, pain, emotions and stress. The study found that both real and fake smiling as well as grimacing improved subjective pain experiences. [5] Smiling releases natural pain killers to elevate mood and relax the body.

  6. Helps other people. People tend to mimic facial expressions of emotion that they observe [6]. If we smile at people, they are likely to smile too, initiating all the health benefits that go along with smiling.

  7. Makes you more attractive. A common expression is “the most attractive thing you can wear is a smile.” People love people who smile. We are hard wired to be attracted to smiles [7].

  8. Improves success. Smiles are associated with trustworthiness [8] which can lead to more clients and more promotions. Happiness also helps improve productivity in the workplace. According to a 2010 research team led by Warwick Business School professor Andrew Oswald "Happier workers were 12% more productive” [9].

  9. Creates positive emotions. One study in 2019 looked at emotions and manipulated facial expressions. When people smile, they tend to feel positive emotions [10]. Try it out for yourself and note how charging your facial expression changes your mood.

  10. Improved longevity. A 2010 study concluded that smiling intensity in photographs predicted longevity [11] while another study by Harvard University found that overall happiness is related to longer lives [12].


Smile While..

Smile while you’re doing any task, even if it’s a fake smile. Smiling improves overall physical and emotional well-being. You’ll feel better and people around you will feel better too. 

A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast.
— Groucho Marx

Bottom line: Smiling is good for your health on many levels and is a natural pain killer. It’s free, easy and makes the world a happier place!



Stress is one of the biggest contributors to pain and inflammation. If you want to release stress and lower pain, download my FREE Relief With Peace audio bundle here.



[1] Marmolejo-Ramos F, Murata A, Sasaki K, et al. Your face and moves seem happier when I smile: Facial action influences the perception of emotional faces and biological motion stimuliExp Psychol. 2020;67(1):14-22.

[2] Kraft TL, Pressman SD. Grin and bear it: The influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress responsePsychol Sci. 2012;23(11):1372-1378.

[3] Brod S, Rattazzi L, Piras G, D'Acquisto F. 'As above, so below' examining the interplay between emotion and the immune system. Immunology. 2014 Nov;143(3):311-8.

[4] Strean WB. Laughter prescriptionCan Fam Physician. 2009;55(10):965-967.

[5]Pressman SD, Acevedo AM, Hammond KV, Kraft-Feil TL. Smile (Or grimace) through the pain? The effects of experimentally manipulated facial expressions on needle-injection responsesEmotion. Published online November 23, 2020.

[6] Wood A, Rychlowska M, Korb S, Niedenthal P. Fashioning the face: Sensorimotor simulation contributes to facial expression recognition. Trends Cogn Sci. 2016;20(3):227-240.

[7] Little AC, Jones BC, DeBruine LM. Facial attractiveness: Evolutionary based research. Philos Trans R Soc B. 2011;366(1571):1638-1659.

[8]Schmidt K, Levenstein R, Ambadar Z. Intensity of smiling and attractiveness as facial signals of trustworthiness in women. Percept Mot Skills. 2012 Jun;114(3):964-78.

[9] Coles NA, Larsen JT, Lench HC. A meta-analysis of the facial feedback literature: Effects of facial feedback on emotional experience are small and variablePsychol Bull. 2019;145(6):610-651.

[10] Doward J. Happy people really do work harder. The Guardian. Published online July 11, 2010. 

[11] Abel EL, Kruger ML. Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevityPsychol Sci. 2010;21(4):542-544.

[12] Lawrence EM, Rogers RG, Wadsworth T. Happiness and longevity in the United States. Soc Sci Med. 2015 Nov;145:115-9.

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  2. All information in this post is based on my personal experiences. Please discuss any changes to your diet, lifestyle or medications with your healthcare team. No information in this article is meant to replace medical advice. Please read my Terms and Conditions.