“I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish” — Mother Teresa
It’s true. Our smiles can bring an immeasurable amount of good into the world. Have you ever noticed that when you see others smile, you feel happier? Or when you force a smile onto your face, you actually start to feel happy?
It’s scientifically proven that smiling elevates your mood and creates a sense of well-being.
Research has shown that when you smile, serotonin and endorphins are released. This release of endorphins and serotonin is triggered by the movement in your face which is then interpreted by your brain.
Believe it or not, your brain doesn’t differentiate between real and fake smiles. Endorphins are still released based on the positioning of your facial muscles. Even faking a smile can reduce stress and makes you feel happier.
Psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas conducted a study testing this theory.
Some of the participants were instructed to smile, while some were asked to put chopsticks in their mouths to produce one of three facial expressions: a neutral expression, a standard smile, or a Duchenne smile. A standard smile is a half-smile just around the mouth. A Duchenne smile is a wide, ear-to-ear type of smile.
The participants were then asked to do a series of stressful tasks. Researchers monitored the heart rates and surveyed the participants’ stress levels after the tasks were completed.
They found that those who were instructed to smile had the lowest heart rates and least stress. Even those who had their mouths forced open by chopsticks reported less stress than the neutral expression participants.
Not only is smiling good for you, it’s good for those around you, too.
Adrienne Wood, a Ph.D. student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, further explored the impact smiling has on others with her own study. Wood said that sensorimotor simulation in our brains causes this mimicry to occur without us even realizing it.
“In daily life, you rarely observe facial expressions in a vacuum, and we believe that you combine information from sensorimotor simulation with your understanding of the situation in order to fully comprehend other people’s feelings,” Wood said.
Wood concluded that when we copy someone else’s expression, we trigger the same emotional state in ourselves, which allows us to formulate the appropriate social response.
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1) The Untapped Power of Smiling. Forbes. Accessed October 5, 2016.
2) The Science of Smiling. The Huffington Post. Accessed October 4, 2016.
3) The Surprising Psychology of Smiling. Psychology Today. Accessed October 4, 2016.
4) The 9 Superpowers of Your Smile. Psychology Today. Accessed October 4, 2016.
5) 7 Benefits of Smiling and Laughing that You Didn’t Know About. Lifehack. Accessed October 5, 2016.
6) Smiling Really Is Contagious, And Here’s Why. The Huffington Post. Accessed October 4, 2016.
7) Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Accessed October 4, 2016.