Do you become annoyed when someone tells you to cheer up and smile? Ever think they might be onto something? Science shows that turning that frown upside might actually make you feel better!
Your mental state and physical state are inextricably interconnected, also known as the mind-body connection. Your mood is determined by a complex networks of chemicals interacting in your body.
Everything you do- what you eat, how you move, how you breathe is information for your body in how it should produce and secrete those chemicals.
These information exchanges can go unnoticed, but with a little bit of knowledge put into practice, we can encourage the chemical reactions that lead us to more useful (what some might call more “positive” mind states.
Smiling is one of the simplest and quickest ways to act on our body-mind. The act of smiling releases a number of feel-good chemicals like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin which can calm your nervous system, by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, relieving pain, and helping us experience pleasure.
Conversely, smiling decreases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are more associated with the “fight or flight” reaction in the body.
Not only does smiling make you feel better, it makes others around you feel better. When we smile at someone, we activate mirror neurons in their body, which creates a similar chemical reaction in the other person. That person is then more likely to smile. In other words, a smile is infectious. Our social interactions may go better if we smile.
What if someone doesn’t smile back? First off, its very difficult to not smile back at someone who smiles at you. But even if that does happen to you, Emma Seppala, PHD, has found that even when a person does not smiling back, their micro-muscles and they are more likely to smile later on. It seems like a smile is never wasted, on yourself or on others.
Don’t feel like much of a smiler? Research shows that faking your smile reduces stress more than not smiling at all. Better yet, think of it as a practice instead of something you have to get right.
Other cool facts about smiling: babies smile in the womb, blind people smile when they are happy. Smiling make also help you live longer.
For more, check out these TED talks by Ron Guttman and Emma Sepala. Tell me what you think- do you practice smiling to feel better?