How Our Brains Are Affected by a Smile

For all our focus on mental and physical well-being, we often overlook one of the most important things we can do to improve our lives: smile more. A smile, both from you and from others, is more than a superficial gesture.

Research has shown that a smile can raise the mood of the one wearing it as well as that of everyone who sees it. Plus, smiling has been shown to relieve stress, reduce pain, and even help us live longer. So let’s take a closer look at all the reasons you should turn that frown upside down.

Your Brain on Smiles

Every time you smile, your brain releases a plethora of feel-good chemicals that improve your mood and your health. The first of these are called neuropeptides. These little molecules assist with neural communication and help your body fight off stress.

Your brain will release multiple mood-boosting neurotransmitters as well, including dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Endorphins act as a 100 percent organic pain reliever without any of the side effects of most over-the-counter pills.

To lift up your mood, it is hard to beat the effects of serotonin. This neurotransmitter is the focus of many prescription medicines that exist just to help boost your brain’s production of the chemical. However, with a smile alone, you can help boost your levels of serotonin without a prescription or even a visit to the doctor.

Your Smile Is Contagious

The part of your brain responsible for smiling is housed in the cingulate cortex, which is an unconscious response area. This part of the brain is responsible for controlling smiles both when you are happy and mimicking the expressions of others.

In one study on the topic, researchers showed people pictures of smiling and frowning individuals and asked the participants to mimic and then do the opposite of what they saw in the pictures. Participants were found to have an easy time copying the facial expressions in the images and required conscious effort to do the opposite.

Researchers assume that this is our brain’s way of helping us to empathize with those around us. But whatever the reason is, it means that every time you smile at someone, they will probably smile back, and both of you will feel better as a result!

Your Smile Looks Great on You!

It’s a fact! Studies have found that people view smiling faces a lot more positively. This makes sense because every time you see a smiling face, your brain activates the orbitofrontal cortex, which provides sensory rewards. In studies that asked men and women to rate the attractiveness of people in images with both smiling and unsmiling faces, both groups rated those wearing a smile as more attractive.

Final Thoughts

When it all comes down to it, few things can leave you feeling better than a big, toothy grin. The fact is there are a lot of benefits to smiling and no downsides. So, next time you’re feeling down, try busting out a smile anyway, and chances are you’ll soon feel the good vibes you need. Plus, you will be passing positivity along to everyone you see.

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