“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” -Mother Theresa
If we want to find our happy, a great place to start is to find a smile. When you give or get a genuine smile, one that you can feel from your head to your toes, it changes you. Colors are brighter, clouds don’t seem as gloomy. And hey, you just might wave at the guy who just cut you off instead of saying a few choice words in his direction. Maybe.
We all know smiles are great but why?
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Do you know of any other thing you can give so freely, never run out of, makes the giver and receiver feel better and doesn’t share germs? Free is good. Smiles are great.
Smiles are a drug-free mood booster.
Smiling releases all sorts of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. Serotonin acts as a natural anti-depressant and mood-lifter. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure center so when it’s released, you get that rush of a happy, go-get-‘em attitude. Endorphins act as a natural pain reliever so they not only help you feel happier, you can tolerate pain and discomfort better.
They don’t even need to be real.
As they say, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Yes, it might feel awfully strange to force a fake smile when you feel like throwing something across the room…but give it a try! Starting with a fake smile will kick into gear those feel good chemicals released by the brain and can eventually lead to you actually feeling happy. To get the most benefit, don’t just smile with the corners of your mouth. Engage the muscles around your eyes, the ones that help give us laugh lines! This true smile is also called the duchenne smile, named after the famous scientist who first separated the “mouth corners”-only smile, from the “eye socket” one. It looks more genuine to others and feels more genuine when you do it.
Smile and others will see you as more approachable and trustworthy. You don’t need science to tell you that seeing someone with a genuine smile makes you more likely to strike up a conversation but there are studies to prove it. Also, the bigger the smile, the more trustworthy that person appears.
Smiles invite smiles.
As contagious as chicken pox but not nearly as itchy. Seeing someone else smile activates mirror neurons, brain cells that kick into gear when we do an activity or see someone else do that activity. Neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni told Scientific American, “The way mirror neurons likely let us understand others is by providing some kind of inner imitation of the actions of other people, which in turn leads us to ‘simulate’ the intentions and emotions associated with those actions. When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile.”
You’ll live forever! (or at least longer than most non-smilers)
Many studies have been done to show the correlation between big, genuine smiles and long lives. One of the most famous was done by Wayne State University. Researchers used 230 photos of baseball players who started playing before 1950 and rated their smiles as big smiles, no smiles and partial smiles. They found that, of the players that has passed, life-spans ranged from an average of 72.9 years for the players with no smiles (63 players), to 75 years for players with partial smiles (64 players) to 79.9 years for players with big smiles (23 players). Part of this can be attributed to those feel-good chemicals we talked about earlier. Endorphins and serotonin naturally help to reduce inflammation and pain. Smiling is also a powerful immune booster.
Wanna smile a little and spread the happiness to others? Check out these quick jokes and memorize a few for your next social gathering. 🙂
“I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite.” -Buddy the Elf
Looks like we should all follow Buddy’s advice and make smiling our favorite too.