The Checkup: (Fake) Smile! It’s Good For Your Heart

Smiles, even fake ones, can help lower heart rates during stress, according to a new study.

• Need a reason to smile? Here’s one: Researchers at the University of Kansas found that smiling can help lower your heart rate and keep you calm in stressful situations—get this—even if the smile’s completely fake. That’s right, you don’t even have to mean it and your heart reaps the rewards. The research team stumbled on to this little discovery through a (somewhat bizarre) study which involved 169 college students who were taught to hold chopsticks in their mouths in certain ways. Part of the group held the chopsticks such that the resulting facial expression looked like what’s called a Duchenne smile, a genuine smile using muscles in the eyes and mouth; some of those subjects were specifically told they looked like they were smiling. Then, while continuing to hold the chopsticks in their mouths, the subjects were told to do all kinds of activities, intended to stress them out. (I know, weird, right?) Reports CBS Dallas:

During and after, the subject’s heart rates were recorded. Those who held the chopsticks in a smile position, particularly those who held a Duchenne smile, had lower heart rates after a recovery period than those who had neutral expressions. Those that were told they were supposed to be smiling had a slightly higher increase in decreased heart rate compared to the group that didn’t know they were smiling.

Your takeaway: Plaster on that smile, baby—even if you don’t mean it one lick.

• Welp, going gluten-free is officially a fad. The AP reports that Americans will spend $7 billion this year on foods labeled gluten-free—and many of the people making those purchases aren’t doing so for known medical reasons.

• Ladies, this one’s for you: How your period affects your shopping habits. (Really.)