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Half-Smiling Technique to Reduce Emotional Distress

Half-Smiling Technique

Today, you’re going to discover how half-smiling can reduce emotional distress in a few minutes.

How Smiling Reduces Emotional Distress?

Feeling happy can make us smile, the opposite is also true: smiling can make us feel happy!

When you smile feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are released in your brain, which helps your body relax, lower your blood pressure, and lift your mood quickly.

The good news is that your smile does not have to be a real one and doesn’t have to be a full one.

The mere act of moving your facial muscles to create half-smile expression is enough.

Related: How To Sit With Painful Emotions? (Top 9 Difficult Emotions)

Half-Smiling Technique

The concept of a half-smile was introduced by Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches people to live in the moment, develop healthier ways to regulate their difficult emotions, and improve their relationships with others.

The half-smile, often referred to as the “Mona Lisa smile,” is a DBT technique that helps you relax and feel calmer even in the face of stressful situations.

The science behind it is that not only do our emotions cause us to make certain facial expressions, but making facial expressions also causes us to feel certain emotions: Furrow your brow and you experience anger. Take short, shallow breaths and you induce panic. Basically, engage in the behavior and the emotion will follow.

Related: Best 99 Coping Skills (+FREE Coping Worksheets)

How To Use The Half-Smile Technique?

Here’s how it works:

1. Relax the muscles in your face, from your forehead to your chin.

2. Allow the corners of your mouth to turn up ever so slightly and stop when you feel a small amount of tension at the corners of your mouth.

It’s a subtle, tiny smile that if someone were watching you, they may not notice the change in your face.

3. Maintain a relaxed, peaceful facial expression.

4. Now wear this smile for ten minutes and notice how your mood has shifted.

If you didn’t notice any significant change, some people find it helpful to “smile with their eyes” along with the half-smile.

Manage Your Anxiety Worksheets


  • Linehan, M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT® skills training manual (2nd ed.). Guilford Press.
Half-Smiling Technique