Smiling is an easy and straightforward way to improve the world around us and also the feelings within us.
We now know from neuroscience that when we forcefully practice smiling we soothe stress, lower our anxiety levels and boost our mood by pumping our bodies full of feel-good hormones.
Flexing Our Muscles
While a smile may only be the flexing of a couple of facial muscles, it’s one of the most instinctive and simple facial expressions. The ripple effect in the body is nothing short of miraculous; as the simplest of smiles, even a smirk, activates tiny molecules in the brain. These molecules facilitate communication between the neurons in the brain, stimulating the amygdala—the emotional centre of the brain—which releases neurotransmitters triggering a whole chain reaction that pumps the body full of feel-good hormones through the release of dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. The result is an instant feel-good feeling.
Boost Mental Health
According to researchers at The University of South Africa, ‘If we can trick the brain into perceiving stimuli as ‘happy’, then we can potentially use this mechanism to help boost mental health.’ We now know the brain doesn’t know the difference between a fake smile and a genuine smile. So, even if we don’t feel like smiling in the first place, our brain and body will automatically respond as if it’s a natural and genuine smile. And will still pump us full of the feel-good feelings anyway.
Change Our Perceptions
Researchers at the University of Kansas found that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress and lowers the heart rate in stressful or tense situations. Thereby promoting a more positive outlook on life. Another study linked smiling reported lower blood pressure, easing of pain and aches. While yet another suggests that the practice of regular smiling leads to longevity.
Smiling Makes Us More Attractive
The singer, Nat King Cole, encourages us to cheer up and reminds us that there is always a bright tomorrow, just as long as we smile and keep hope. We can pass this feel good-feeling on to others.
Researchers also found that those who smiled more and made eye contact were consistently rated higher on the attractiveness scale than those who didn’t.
Finding Things To Smile About
For most people, it’s the little things in life that give us the greatest joy. A cup of tea in the morning, listening to a favourite song, a walk in nature, lunch with a friend, a beautiful sunset, a hug from a loved one, the joy on the faces of children as they play, the antics of a kitten or a puppy. Find what makes you smile and do more of it.
Pass It On
Not only do we benefit when we smile, but the effects can be so beneficial for both the giver and the receiver. When someone smiles at us, it makes us feel recognised, acknowledged, embraced, valued, important, but most of all, it makes us feel loved. When we smile at others, we’re passing on the feel-good feeling.
Smiling Is Contagious
Smiling truly is contagious. When we smile, we activate neurons in the brain that fire a synchronising feature triggering a smile response in others. When someone smiles at us, and it stimulates the feel-good feeling in us, we then want to pass a smile on the next person, and so on and so forth.
So, in the words of Spike Milligan, ‘let’s get the world infected with smiles.’
|Smile: A Poem by Spike Milligan |
Smiling is infectious, you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin.
When he smiled I realised I’d passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile, then I realized its worth.
A single smile, just like mine could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin, don’t leave it undetected.
Let’s start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!
So, give it a try, smile at yourself in the mirror, get yourself into smiling gear, then pass it around the world. Smile at whoever you’re with right now, or whoever you meet throughout the course of your day.