How to Smile When You Think You Can't Smile

Three Methods:Practicing Your SmileUsing Your ImaginationBenefiting From Smiling

Smiling is the most powerful gesture. It can increase your happiness, and it can make people around you feel good. But sometimes smiling is the last thing you want to do. There are even times when a smile feels close to impossible. It might be a tough day at work, or being caught in the midst of family drama during the holidays that's causing your face to be uncooperative. Smiling is good for you, but it's not always easy. Fortunately, there are methods you can use to make sure that you always have a smile at the ready.

Method 1
Practicing Your Smile

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    Use the mirror. If you get used to having a smile on your face, it will come more naturally when you need to make it happen. Even though there will always be those times where it is hard to smile, you can make it easier by having your smile ready. The mirror can be your best friend in this case. Take a few minutes (each day, or every week) to check yourself out. Treat this as an important task, and take all the time you need to find the smile that's right for you.[1]
    • Try out a few different options. Do you like how you look with your mouth open? Or does your smile look better without your teeth showing? Choose the one that not only looks great, but feels comfortable. A genuine looking smile is always your best option.
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    Exercise your smile. Work on your smile like you work on the rest of your body. You'll be sure to like the results! Start by keeping your mouth closed, and stretching your lips to the side. Hold for a brief period. Next, stretch, the smile further, exposing half of your teeth. Hold this position. Finally, let your full smile fly, showing all of your teeth. Hold, then start repeating the process. This exercise will actually strengthen your smile muscles.[2]
    • Strong smile muscles will make it easier to hold it in place during a sticky situation. For example, if you are at work and dealing with a difficult client, it's going to be hard to hang on to that smile. The stronger your smile, the more firmly it will stay in place.
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    Take pictures. In addition to using the mirror, your camera can be a great tool for you to rely on when working on your smile. Even better, you can just use the camera on your phone and take a few selfies! Take pictures of the different smiles that you have been practicing in the mirror. Pick the one that looks best, and make that your go-to smile. Pull up the picture before you head into what could be a difficult situation. Seeing yourself smile might just help you smile for real![3]
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    Place yourself in happy situations. When you're working to learn how to smile your way through difficult situations, practice by placing yourself into happy environments. Grab some friends and go to a funny movie. Or take a date to a comedy club. Go to a pet store and find a cute puppy or kitty to play with. All of these things are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. And the more you get used to smiling, the easier it will be to summon that grin whenever you need to.
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    Increase your confidence. If you are feeling confident, it will be easier to smile, even if you're dealing with a delicate social situation. If you feel like you're in control, your face (and smile) will reflect that. There are several tricks you can try to make yourself more confident. Make sure to speak positively to yourself--no negativity! You can also try to focus only on your positive traits. Do you like the way you are able to clearly communicate your feelings? Great! Hold on to that thought, and let it help put that smile on your face.[4]

Method 2
Using Your Imagination

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    Go somewhere else. When you are in a difficult situation, try to picture yourself somewhere (anywhere!) else. To take a mental vacation, have a spot ready in your mind. Do you feel happiest on a beach? Or maybe your idea of relaxation is a secluded mountain cabin. Wherever it is that brings a smile to mind, try mentally placing yourself there.[5]
    • For example, maybe you ran into your neighbor on your way out the door. Perhaps your neighbor is nice, but it can be difficult to smile and nod when she goes on and on about the latest antics of her cats. This would be a great time to practice going to your mental vacation spot. Chances are that smile will look a lot more genuine if you are imagining that you are relaxing by the pool somewhere!
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    Retrieve happy memories. Think back to some of the best times in your life. Maybe it was your first date with your wife. Maybe it was the day you finally landed that dream job. Perhaps you recall a particularly awesome snowball fight as a child. Whatever it is, pull up some of your favorite memories and thumb through them like a photo album. Do this while you're nervously waiting to head in for your big job interview. If you think of happy times, you'll have an easy time smiling when it's time to go in and wow your potential boss with your confident smile.[6]
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    Concentrate on your task. It's going to be difficult to smile in some situations, and there's no getting around that. At times, it might be helpful to just concentrate on smiling with all of your might. Focus your mental energy on the task at hand--keeping that smile on your face, and in your eyes. This is where you can really put those newly strengthened smile muscles to the test.
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    Turn on your inner soundtrack. There is a clear connection between music and our emotions. Chances are that you have some favorite songs that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Is there one that reminds you of dancing enthusiastically with your girlfriends? Is there a track that your favorite band played when you finally got to see them in concert? Maybe the theme song from your favorite movie makes your grin from ear to ear. Whatever song you choose, try "playing" it in your head when you're having a hard time smiling. Music can clear up a bad mood and ease your anxiety.[7]
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    Just do it. If you can just force yourself to smile, you can probably get that expression to stay in place for a little while, at least. The act of smiling is an instant mood booster, so the more you do it, the more you feel like smiling.Even better, smiling is contagious. If you smile, it is likely that the people around you will start grinning, too. In turn, their smiles will make it easier for you to keep yours in place.[8]

Method 3
Benefiting From Smiling

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    Change your brain. A simple smile can produce huge reactions in your brain. When you smile, your brain releases neuropeptides. These are the molecules that impact communications in your head. When you smile, the neurotransmitters release dopamine, serotonin, and endorphines, which all make you happy. A simple smile can literally make your mood change, and your happiness will increase. [9]
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    Alter your appearance. A smile can be your most important accessory. We know that both men and women are more attracted to a smiling face. When you are wearing your best grin, you are looking your best. If you walk down the street with a smile on your face, you are guaranteed to get some positive reactions. Just try it![10]
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    Look successful. Your smile can send many signals. When you're smiling in a professional setting, you are saying, "I am confident and capable!" A genuine smile can be a great asset in your professional and personal relationships. For example, women who genuinely smile in pictures are thought to have better careers and happier marriages.[11]
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    Improve your health. Smiling is a good indicator of happiness. Happiness is directly related to our overall physical health. For example, happier people typically have lower blood pressure, and a healthier heart. You can live a longer and healthier life. Is there a better reason to smile?[12]
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    Look younger. Who doesn't want to look a bit younger than their age? Luckily, you don't have to resort to fancy cosmetics or complicated surgical procedures. In order to take a few (or several) years off your appearance, all you need is your smile. A happy expression can cause others to guess your age much less accurately than if you are wearing a neutral expression--or worse, a frown.[13]


  • When you smile, others will smile back. The more people smile back at you, the more you will want to smile. Before long, you'll realize you are no longer faking that smile.
  • Sometimes you need to start the ball rolling to change the mood from sad to happy. A simple smile can change a lot!
  • Pay attention to your appearance. Clean yourself up, brush your hair, put on something good without holes or stains. A positive self image can be jump started with a fresh look. A smile is sure to follow.
  • If you can't smile, look at someone else smiling. It helps a lot as it spreads positivity.

Article Info

Categories: Laughter and Smiling