Smiles are wonderful things. They make us and those around us feel good and at ease, and light up everything. But what if you don’t feel like smiling? What if it’s a bad situation and you are down and angry?
Well, your brain would still prefer you smile, even a fake one.
The act of smiling itself has enormous benefits for your brain, and every time your mouth cracks into that convex shape those benefits start to flow.
Your brain on smiles
The physical act of smiling is a cue to your brain to release certain neuropeptides, like Dopamine, Serotonin, and Endorphins. All of these fall under the classification of “happiness hormones,” for they induce pleasurable feelings in your brain.
- Dopamine gives you an instant boost of energy and motivation.
- Serotonin helps calm you down and soothes your nerves.
- Endorphins directly aid in reducing cortisol levels and even decrease feelings of pain. The expression “smiling through pain” is actually a positive one, because smiling can literally help manage your pain.
Together these brain chemicals work to reduce the effects of stress and pressure, improve your mood, and aid in alleviating symptoms of mental health issues like Depression and Anxiety.
The more you smile, the less the effects of chronic stress can affect you. This means a host of cognitive issues like memory and recall problems, learning loss, decision limbo, and brain fog won’t even happen – if you just take care to smile regularly and as often as possible.
Smiles are contagious
Smiling is not just a cue for your brain, but also for those around you. When someone smiles at you, the neurons in your brain automatically start to mirror that behavior. It is our instinct to smile back when we are smiled at.
This does two things.
1) Smiling instantly creates a positive social connection and that reduces stress for everyone concerned. Saying anything with a smile creates a framework of positivity that allows everyone to work/socialize in a relaxed manner.
2) Giving and receiving smiles releases a signal to our brain that we are surrounded by friendly people. Our brain is accustomed to seek out social connections for it wants us to survive. To the brain, more friendly people means better chances of survival. Being smiled at automatically reduces our stress response and puts us in a calmer state.
Fake it till you make it
That’s pop wisdom, isn’t it? But actually helpful when it comes to smiles. We know that good feelings make us smile. Science will tell you the reverse is also true – that smiles make us feel good.
This is because your brain really, really wants you to smile. So much so that it doesn’t distinguish between a truly happy smile and a forced or fake one. Smiles work as an assurance that everything is okay with your surroundings. So whenever you smile, it activates the feel-good hormones to reward you for surviving.
When we are under stress or depressed, these feel-good hormones can be difficult to access. Smiling is a way to trick your brain into rewarding you with positive hormones, so that you can actually become equipped to handle and change the negative situations in your life.
The best things in life are free, they say. A smile doesn’t cost anything, yet it can be your shield from a host of health and cognitive issues arising from our day-to-day problems. If you are having a bad day, just flash a big smile – even if you don’t feel like it – and see how the day starts to magically transform. Happy smiling!