Smiling is an essential reflex in firing up your brain with loads of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin which can improve your mood even when you are the saddest or crustiest. Normally for most of the people, it is an unconscious reflex/response. However, some people think that humans can smile consciously too and that there are a lot of benefits of smiling when we are aware of smiling.
One of the most important benefit, especially for athletes, is that smiling can boost your athletic performance, even if you are forcing it and faking your smile.
Furthermore, recent studies done by some dentists and doctors in companies such as invisalign have also suggested that smiling consciously while doing an activity may decrease the effort you think you put in that activity aka effort perception, compared to doing an activity while frowning. Although, no study had looked into the benefits of smiling while running until one study did.
In this research, 24 amateur runners were chosen. They were asked to run four six minutes running sessions on the treadmill. All 24 runners completed each session together and 2 minutes of rest was given between each session. The researchers asked the 24 runners to either smile on the real and not fake it if they can, or just frown or adopt their normal approach during running. Some were also asked to relax their upper body consciously by imagining holding a crisp.
Moreover, each of the 24 participants were asked to wear a breathing mask as well, so that the researchers can measure how much oxygen is consumed by each participant while they were running. After each session, the researchers asked a few questions related to perceptual responses including the perceived effort of each runner.
The researchers found that the participants who were asked to smile genuinely were the most efficient during these four running sessions. Unexpectedly, these runners used 2.8 percent less energy than of those who were frowning, and 2.2 percent less energy compared to the participants who were asked adopt their normal approach. Even though, these numbers may seem small but these are enough to conclude that smiling does improve the athletic performance of an athlete.
Now, you may start to think that why does the facial expressions boost the athletic performance of one. Luckily, there is a concept of embodied emotion. This concept revolves around the idea of how different facial expressions can impact a person’s emotions and how they are experienced by said person.
It is an undeniable fact that relaxing can improve one’s athletic performance. So, it is safe to say that the act of smiling may improve the state of runners by relaxing them. On the other hand, frowning can do the opposite aka increasing tension. However, relaxation techniques are a bit hard and you may need to practice a lot in order to master them.
Improving your performance
Now you may be thinking that what are the practical implications of this runner research? And how can you implement it in your own life in order to improve your running performance? One of the most obvious implication, also mentioned above, is to smile during running as it can improve your running efficiency by making you feel more relaxed.
Asking these kind of questions is all right but what you need to ask is that for how long does person need to smile for? Do we need to smile continuously for the whole period while running or smiling here and there is okay?
It is advisable to pay attention to your smile as much as you can.