Wear a Mona Lisa smile

Researchers have shown the simple act of positioning your face into a (natural) half smile can lift your mood. It sounds too simple to be true, but it works!

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Try this simple exercise: think about a recent situation that made you angry. Close your eyes, clench your fists, lean forward and squish your face into a “mad” expression. Hold this posture for about a minute while thinking about the situation and your anger in detail. Try to remember what was said or done, how you felt and why the situation made you angry.

  • What thoughts are going through your mind? 
  • What emotion(s) are you experiencing? 
  • Rate the intensity of the emotion(s) on a scale of 0 to 100: 

Now, unclench your fists and sit back in a relaxed fashion. Relax your face and put on a gentle half smile (like the woman’s expression in the Mona Lisa painting). The muscles around your eyes and mouth should feel relaxed, and your mouth should be slightly upturned. Think again about the situation above for approximately one minute, while holding this posture.

  • What thoughts are going through your mind?
  • What emotion(s) are you feeling now? 
  • Rate the intensity of the emotion(s) on a scale of 0 to 100:

Notice if there was any (even slight) reduction in the intensity of your emotional reaction.

Try practicing throughout the course of your workday. Actively remind yourself to smile. You may want to put a reminder on your computer or telephone. You could also display a sticky note in a place where you can easily see it.

Although it can take some practice, over time you may find the simple act of placing your face into a half (or Mona Lisa) smile can reduce the intensity of negative emotions you’re experiencing.

Additional resources

Body language awareness. Effective communication isn’t limited to the words we say. Our non-verbal communication includes body language, tone of voice, eye contact and facial expressions.

Link emotions, thoughts and behaviours. We associate our emotions – positive or negative – with the ways we think about ourselves, how we behave and how we perceive others and the world.

Contributors include.articlesDr. Joti SamraWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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