In an argument? Research shows that if you smile, happiness follows.
Major delays at the airport, never-ending traffic jams in the summer heat, getting lost (again) on the road when you're already running late: plenty of stressful situations are bound to sneak up on you this summer and cause tension between you and partner. But according to a study from the University of the Rockies, there's an easy way to avoid another unnecessary argument with the one you love: Smile.
Yes, it's that simple. Turning that frown upside down doesn't just look prettier on your face — it can actually boost your mood. The reason is simple: it's harder to stay angry when you're grinning. The act of smiling actually evokes positive feelings and often sparks a positive reaction in others.
And it's not just your mood that your smile is improving. According to the report, "there appears to be a link between smiling and factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, and other stress level indicators." Not only can your happiness be contagious to your partner, but he'll also be able to thank you for lowering his blood pressure a little.
"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 Dr. David Solly, a professor at University of the Rockies.
We get it: slapping on a grin from ear-to-ear is easier said than done when you've been sitting in traffic for two hours. So how you can use smiling to overcome those aggravating situations that get the best of you?
Here are some of Solly's best tips.
1. Use a prop: Seriously! If you're finding it hard to crack a smile, use a prop to help change your mood. Even something like a goofy picture of someone smiling to inspire you. Sully recommends pasting it on card stock and attaching it to a stick so you can hold it like a lollipop when you're on a long line or sitting at the airport. Hold it up to your face and look over at your significant other — it's sure to make the both of you laugh.
2. Transport yourself: Mentally, of course. Channel your creativity to visualize what makes you happy: places that you have visited and enjoyed, your favorite hobbies, activities, memories of a concert, athletic event or a personal victory. In fact, you may even want to use the time to brainstorm your next trip together will be or plan weekend activity for the two of you. Studies show that having something to look forward to helps you tolerate stress.
3. Look around: Mindfulness is a spiritual practice that's been proven to ease anxiety. Use the opportunity, wherever you are, to take in your current surroundings — the sights, sounds, smells — and to be really be present in the moment. You may even spot something you've never noticed before (as in, what is that weird noise our car is making?).
4. Keep a healthy perspective: Play a little mind game with yourself. "If you're inching along in traffic, imagine yourself riding across the country in a horse-drawn coach or wagon or train, in a time when heat and air conditioning were unheard of and the top speed was 15 miles per hour," says Solly. Remind yourself, things could be always worse.