Chop stick smiles can help you bear exam stress

chop stick smiles can help you bear exam stressBeing a student can be seriously hard work, especially now, as exams loom and exam stress begins setting in,  well meaning people will often advice that you grin and bear it.

So, does it work ?

This week’s Neurotechnology Tip confirms that the wiring in the jaw bone, really does connect to “happy” centres in your brain. So as the stress levels rise, GRIN – it will help you bear it.

Smiling really helps stress

According to a team of researchers from the University of Kansas – the simple act of a smile, really can melt away stress.

If you’re cynically muttering under your breath, well duh…. while indignantly pointing out that this is a very unhelpful tip this week, because


It is the physical positioning of the jaw, that is doing the job, the benefit is not necessarily tied up with the emotion behind the smile.

This is clearly good news, if you feel you cannot muster up the emotion – just assume the position. You should still get some benefit.

Chop stick smiles

So if you’re not in the mood, how do you conjure about a smile.

The Kansas team shoved chop sticks into the mouths of their participants, to engage the necessary face muscles. 169 Mitchigan students were signed up for chop stick exercises.

Creating chop stick facial expressions did require a little training, so phase 1 of the study, involved lessons in how to position the chopstick so your face was

  • Neutral
  • “Smiling”

And the chop sticks stayed PUT. I suspect this is the real challenge to chop stick smiling.

People stuck smiling did better

After the basics of smile manoeuvres had been mastered, the participants were required to do a few taxing tasks. The tasks were performed with the chop sticks jammed in position – either the “smiling” position or the neutral position.

  • The first taxing task, put the brain’s thinking capacities under stress. Participants had to trace a star with their non-dominant hand, by looking at a reflection of the star in the mirror.
  • The second task, was taxing physically. Participants had to submerge a hand in ICE cold water. Brrrrrrr.

Having a couple of chop sticks holding up your face, meant, even when the going was tough on those taxing tasks, the SMILE endured.

And smiling through the trauma helped.

Heart rates didn’t rise quite as much, and the participants who SMILED, reported that they actually felt less stressed.

Put on a smiley face

So when that exam paper arrives and you flip it open as exam stress flares - try force a SMILE.

Hold it as long as you can.

Maybe aim to get a quizzical look from the invigilator. But try not to laugh hysterically, this behaviour may be construed as a psychotic break down.

Hopefully the grin, will help you bear the exam and overcome that exam stress.   It should reduce the intensity of your body’s stress response marginally. And less stress will help you think better, because too much stress can cause a brain freeze.

 8-)  8-)  8-)  8-)  8-)

Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science (2012)  Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman.

To wire up your brain a little each week ………………..

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Further reading

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Why does nothing stick when you’re stressed out How to avoid choking in an exam Don’t bother counting your blessings rather count your groups of “friends”

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

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Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion

Hire Dr Sandy from a Spoonful of Science to be the keynote speaker at your next event.

Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below

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  2. By » Blog Archive » Round up 15 Oct – 19 Oct on October 19, 2012 at 2:37 pm

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