You might have heard the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but how about “A smile a day keeps depression away?” Smiling not only shows others that you’re happy, but it also reduces your stress and anxiety. When you smile or laugh, your body releases a chemical called endorphin, which reduces negative emotions, stress, and pain. Endorphins transmit electrical signals within your nervous system that work to reduce your perception of pain or stress.
In addition to making you feel better, smiling also has many social benefits. For example, smiling makes you seem more friendly, approachable, and even trustworthy. According to a University of Pittsburgh study, participants ranked images of smiling individuals to be more trustworthy than images of non-smiling individuals. Furthermore, a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology argues that smiling individuals are more attractive because they appear more social and sincere.
What if you’re not happy? Can you still smile and reap the same benefits? The answer is yes! Even though fake and genuine smiles use two different muscles, they both release endorphins, which make you happier and less stressed. A fake smile uses the orbicularis oris muscle, which controls the corners of your mouth. However, a genuine smile uses not only the orbicularis oris, but also a muscle called orbicularis oculi, which controls the area around your eye socket.
Image Source: MedicalRF.com
From intuition, you probably already know how to distinguish between fake and genuine smiles. According to researcher Dr. Niedenthal, your brain does this by comparing the geometry of the face to a standard smile, considering the context of the smile, and mimicking the smile to see if it feels real. Your smile, whether genuine or fake, is very contagious to other people. If you smile at someone, it’s likely that they’ll smile back at you, because that person’s brain is wired to mimic your smile and release endorphins to feel happier.
Starting your morning with a smile can set the tone for a positive and productive day. Ultimately, smiling is beneficial not only for your health, via endorphins, but also for your social life. So whether you’re happy or not, just smile!
Featured Image Source: smile by Rupert Taylor-Price