NeuroNation \ Healthy Living, Mind and Brain

Why You Need to Smile More

We need to smile more because everyone likes being smiled at. Smiling and laughing boost well-being, but as we make the transition from childhood to adulthood, we often forget to smile as much as we used to. Here we talk about the benefits of a smile and what you can do to get in the mood more often.

Smiling makes you more attractive. It lifts your mood and the mood of everyone around you. And it is infectious [1] and even keep you living longer [2]. Did you know that we’re even born smiling? Ultrasounds have found babies to be smiling in the womb, and after the babies are born, they continue to mostly smile, especially in their sleep.

How Smiling Affects your Brain

Each time you smile your brain feels really happy. Smiling activates the release of feel-good-messengers that work towards fighting stress [3]. These messengers help you experience a whole range of emotions, from happiness to sadness, anger to depression. When a smile flashes across your face; dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released into your bloodstream, making not only your body relax but also work to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Endorphins are natural painkillers – 100% naturally produced by your own body, without the negative effects of medication [4].

How Smiling Affects Your Body

When you smile, people treat you differently. You’re seen as attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. Scientists found that seeing an attractive smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain processing sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel that you’re being rewarded.

How Smiling Affects Other People

Smiling is infectious, because the part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression of smiling when happy or mimicking another person’s smile is located in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area [5]. In a Swedish study, subjects were shown pictures of different emotions, including joy, fear, anger, and surprise. The participants were told to frown when shown a smiling person. Instead, as you might have already guessed, participants echoed the emotions of the people rather than following the researcher’s instructions.

How to Laugh and Smile More Often

  1. Smile and laugh more often: the brain does not know the difference between a fake and real smile. If you’re feeling down or notice that you’ve not smiled in a while, fake one. The more often you fake a smile, the more likely smiling will become a more natural habit.

  2. Watch funny TV shows, films, and theater: by avoiding negative media, you can balance yourself to feel more lighthearted and happy, and you’ll have a real reason to have a big grin.

  3. Spend time with positive people: surrounding yourself with fun-loving and optimistic people will bring out your cheery side, and their behavior will rub off on you, lifting your spirits.

We can’t always control what happens to us, but smiling and laughing more often can really change your internal and external experience, and brighten your perspective on life. So just keep smiling!

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[1]  Hatfield, Elaine; Cacioppo, John T.; Rapson, Richard L. Clark, Margaret S. (Ed), (1992). Primitive emotional contagion. Emotion and social behavior. Review of personality and social psychology, Vol. 14., (pp. 151-177). Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc, xi, 311 pp.

[2] Abel E. and Kruger M. (2010) Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity, Psychological Science, 21, 542–544.

[3] Seaward BL. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett; 2009:258

[4] R.D. (2000). Neural correlates of conscious emotional experience. In R.D. Lane & L. Nadel (Eds.), Cognitive neuroscience of emotion (pp. 345–370). New York: Oxford University Press.

[5] Sonnby–Borgström, M. (2002), Automatic mimicry reactions as related to differences in emotional empathy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43: 433–443.

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