My newest nephew, Jasper, and his biggest grin.
It’s National Smile Day here in Australia…but it really couldn’t hurt to spread it around, right?
Scientist and spiritual teachers alike agree that the simple act can transform you and the world around you:
- Current research (and common sense) shows us that a smile is contagious.
- It can make us appear more attractive to others.
- It lifts our mood as well as the moods of those around us.
- And it can even lengthen our lives.
So before you read on, slap a nice, genuine smile on that face of yours. You’ll thank me later.
How Smiling Affects Your Brain
Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.
For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, excited. The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well. This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever – 100% organically and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions. (YAY! No side effects!)
Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant. Many of today’s pharmaceutical anti-depressants also influence the levels of serotonin in your brain, but with a smile, you again don’t have to worry about negative side effects – and you don’t need a prescription from your doctor.
How Smiling Affects Your Body
You’re actually better looking when you smile – and I’m not just trying to butter you up. When you smile, people treat you differently. You’re viewed as attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing an attractive smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel rewarded.
If you don’t believe me, see how many looks you get when you walk outside with that smile you’re wearing right now. (You’re still smiling like I asked, right?)
And I just HAD to include the other nephew, Z, as well.
How Smiling Affects Those Around You
Did you know that your smile is actually contagious? The part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression of smiling when happy or mimicking another’s smile resides in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area. In a Swedish study, subjects were shown pictures of several emotions: joy, anger, fear and surprise. When the picture of someone smiling was presented, the researchers asked the subjects to frown. Instead, they found that the facial expressions went directly to imitation of what subjects saw. It took a conscious effort to turn that smile upside down.
So if you’re smiling at someone, it’s likely they can’t help but smile back. If they don’t, they’re making a conscious effort not to.
Looking at the bigger picture, each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release feel good chemicals in your brain, activate reward centers, make you both more attractive and increase the chances of you both living longer, healthier lives.
Hey! And, if you can’t think of anyone you want to smile at, give yourself a smile in the mirror. Hug yourself at the same time and the effect is even stronger. OK, so you might look like an April Fool, but who cares if there’s no one but you to see?