Whether you call it a grin, smirk, beam or smile, there’s no denying the feel-good power of this happy facial expression. We are born with the ability to smile, yet as we age, we smile less often. Research shows that children smile an average of 400 times per day, compared to the average happy adult who smiles 40-50 times per day and the typical adult who smiles only 20 times per day.
Why is smiling important? Smiling not only offers a mood boost but helps our bodies release cortisol and endorphins that provide numerous health benefits, including:
Reduced blood pressure
- Increased endurance
- Reduced pain
- Reduced stress
- Strengthened immune system
Furthermore, studies show that people who smile appear more likeable, courteous and competent. Smilers tend to be more productive at work and make more money. Scientists and spiritual teachers alike agree that the simple act of smiling 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
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. 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, or 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 also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever — 100-percent organic and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions
Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter. 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. 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.
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.
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.
Want to increase your daily smile average to take advantage of these benefits? The first step is easy, start your day with a smile. Smiling is contagious, and when we smile we activate neurons in the brain that fire a synchronizing feature. You’ll notice that one smile will lead to additional smiles not just for you, but for those around you.
Try a Smile Challenge
To start flexing your smile muscles more often, try one of these fun smile challenges at home or work.
Post-It-Note Challenge – Gather 10-20 colorful post-it notes and write down people, places or things that make you smile. Stick the post-it-notes someplace you’ll see every morning to start your day.
Social Media Smile Collage – Create a smile collage and post it on social media – include your favorite smile, a picture smiling with friends and a picture of an activity or place that makes you smile.
Waiting Challenge – Catch yourself in a moment where you are waiting – whether it’s in traffic or at the grocery store. Stop and smile. See if others smile back.
19 Challenge – Did you know that scientist have calculated that there are 19 types of smiles? How many do you have? Take pictures of your different smile and capture those of friends, colleagues and family members.