Smiling is awesome.
It can make us feel better, happier and more positive almost instantaneously. When we’re feeling down, even a forced smile in the mirror can lift our mood and help us feel more optimistic about life, even when we face challenges.
Most of us will smile when we make eye contact with someone smiling and know that if we smile at someone, even a stranger, very often they will smile back.
Why is that?
Charles Darwin, in his 1872 publication “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” was one of the first to propose that “the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.”
From research since that time, we have the facial feedback hypothesis which states that “facial movement can influence experience”. In other words, our facial expressions contribute to how we feel.
When we smile and flex the zygomatic major muscle (the one that raises the corners of the mouth when a person smiles) our brain thinks, “I must be happy.”
So, if your mood is neutral or worse, the facial feedback hypothesis says it will improve by simply smiling.
People who smile appear more likeable according to researchers at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland in 2011. Subjects were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness and both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not.
Smilers tend to be more productive at work and make more money (for example, waitresses know they’ll receive better tips when they smile at their customers or even draw smiley faces on the bill!)
Other Benefits of Smiling
Smiling releases the feel-good neurotransmitters, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin that provide numerous health benefits, including:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Increased endurance
- Reduced pain
- Reduced stress
- Strengthened immune system
In a tense setting, smiling not only decreases your stress levels, it makes you more relaxed, allowing you to better collect your thoughts and make more informed decisions.It can also make you seem more trustworthy and competent and because smiling is contagious, when you smile others will likely smile too, making them more relaxed as well.
So smile more often, at yourself and at others. You can never know what is happening in other people’s lives, but some people feel very lonely and isolated so just smiling can make a huge difference in their day.
Be aware, however, that not everyone is capable of responding. Studies have shown that facial feedback appears to be processed differently by individuals in the autism spectrum. Anyone suffering facial paralysis does not have the ability to smile and unfortunately statistics show that these people suffer more from depression than the general populations.
So if you smile at someone and they don’t respond, don’t make judgements or be discouraged, keep smiling as you will always benefit yourself.
No smile is ever wasted.