Is it true? Smiling makes you happy and healthy? It can lower stress, boost your immune system, and prolong your life?
Scientists like Dr. Isha Gupta claim smiling can do all of these things. According to Dr. Gupta, smiling triggers a series of chemical reactions in the brain that make a person happy.
Furthermore, psychoneuroimmunologists (scientists that study how brains influence the immune system) have identified a clear relationship between happiness and improved immunity. Dr. Murray Grossan says the simple act of smiling can make a difference in building the immune system. The brain can’t tell if the movement of muscles in the face is genuine, allowing even fake smiles to boost dopamine, the chemical responsible for good feelings.
The Duchenne Smile
This theory is constantly evolving. Before the latest data, scientists believed that not all forced smiles could induce happiness. Only smiles that indicated happiness, called the Duchenne smile, revealed contentment.
A Duchenne smile exhibits true enjoyment. It happens when the zygomaticus major muscle lifts the corners of your mouth. At the same time, the orbicularis oculi muscles lift your cheeks and crinkle the corners of your eyes into crow’s feet. In particular, when a person’s cheeks are raised, you can be sure that the smile shows happiness.
We smile in several situations aside from being happy. There are evolutionary reasons for all of these smiles, but only the Duchenne smile indicates joy.
Previously, scientists thought forcing an unnatural smile would result in more unhappiness. The discontinuity between a person’s feelings and facial expressions would result in worse feelings. It’s the brain’s way of correcting a kind of cognitive dissonance. With more opportunities for scientists to study the effects of smiling using fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), new truths are being uncovered.
It Doesn't End with You
If you’re smiling, it gets passed along to others you encounter. This is the result of mirror neurons. According to Dr. Eva Ritzo, mirror neurons fire when others see you smile. We can all share in a good mood and spread cheer. If misery loves company, it stands to reason that happiness does too.
It looks nice to smile, but it also sends a good feeling that others want to be a part of. Smiles are so contagious that Dr. Ritzo recommends smiling in the mirror. She says that looking in a mirror will trigger our own mirror neurons. Smiling in the mirror is a great way to help us calm down when feeling anxious.
Undoubtedly, smiling makes you happy and healthy. It might feel incongruous to smile when we’re not feeling satisfied. But give it a try! Like many others, you might find that this simple act can make you feel calmer and a little more comfortable. A little more happiness, after all, leads to a little more health.