How Holding a Pencil in your Teeth can make you Happier!

Monday, May 7

I read something fascinating today in Dr Weil's book Spontaneous Happiness.  

A study was conducted in Germany in the late 80's.  Participants were assigned to hold a pencil in one of three ways.  Group one held the pencil with their lips, mimic this yourself, and you can feel how it stimulates the orbicularis oris muscle, don't worry about the anatomical name, but basically this activates the muscle that is used in Frowning.

Group two, held the pencil in their teeth, have a go, and this stimulated the zygomatic major or risorius muscle used in Smiling.

Group three, the control group, held the pencil in their hands.

The three groups were then all shown a picture of a cartoon, and asked to evaluate how funny they thought it was.

Pic from
(Not the actual cartoon used in the study:) )

The participants didn't know which facial muscles they had been activating with their pencil position.

The group holding the pencil in their teeth found the cartoon significantly more amusing than those holding it in their lips or hands.  

This, and other studies have proven, 

That emotions stimulate facial expressions and facial expressions stimulate emotions.

This has also been shown to work at a group level.  So, the smile and the world smiles with you cliche really is true.  When we see or hear people laugh, we tend to laugh ourselves, which makes them laugh more too and so on.

Dr Weil goes on to explain, that "a group of laughing people constitutes a powerful collection of internal and external feedback loops of positive emotion, making laughing together one of life's great pleasures."

He recommends watching funny movies and comedy shows with friends as in informal way to experience and share this good feeling.

It also brings greater credit to Laughter Yoga or Laughter Therapy, that I have read about a few times recently, but thought sounded quite odd.

This began in 1995 in India, and now there are apparently more than 6000 Laughter clubs in over 60 countries worldwide.  This was begun by Dr Kataria, as he believes that Laughter really is the best medicine, and wanted to get people to do more of it.  His great discovery was that when people in groups simulate laughter, it rapidly becomes real.

Apparently, the method used in laughter clubs is straight forward, after a short warm up, people simulate laughter with vigorous ha ha's and ho ho's.  In a group setting, this fake laughter quickly becomes real and contagious and may continue for half an hour or more.  The result is joy and good fellowship, and studies have shown that people who attend these groups show improved long term emotional and physical help in a variety of ways.

Information on where to find one of these classes can be found on, and the sessions are free with no need to sign up!

So put a smile on your face even if you don't feel like it, chances are it will make you feel happier anyway.


I think I want to try a Laughter class, anyone keen to join me?

Have a Happy Healthy Smile even when you don't feel like Smiling Week,
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