The Science of Smiling
We have all heard the phrase: “It only takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 muscles to frown”, but how can we use the science of smiling to feel better? Smiling and the resulting happiness cost very little energy for our bodies to produce. We also get the added reward of feeling better when we smile, making the simple act of smiling a win/win. To see how we can boost our mood with smiling, take a look at the science behind our smiles.
Why do we smile?
Smiling is a sign that we bear no threat to one another. At a human level, smiling is a way that we let each other know that we are friendly, open to communication and approachable. In most other animal groups, baring teeth is a threatening gesture, however, humans demonstrate our sociability by flashing our teeth.
What happens when we see a smile?
In another person, a smile can be greatly reassuring and comforting. Advertisements and marketing campaigns make great use of this knowledge. A smile can create a sense of trust in us and also a feeling of warmth and familiarity. It is much easier for us to connect with someone when they display a smile for all to see. Smiling is also contagious, so we often feel better after seeing a smile.
What happens when we smile?
Each time we smile, a message is sent to our brains to release the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Once in our bloodstream, this chemical makes us feel happier. When our mood is greatly elevated in this way, we smile even broader, amplifying and perpetuating our happiness. When we smile, we also make others around us feel better and create more positive interaction with others.
Why should we smile more often?
We can use our knowledge of smiling to trick our mind into making us feeling better. Therefore, even though, our happiness may not be caused by a thought or our environment, we can successfully create feelings of happiness in our own bodies by smiling. A little smile can help us improve our mood. As the saying goes “Fake it till you make it!”
The great thing about learning how are bodies and minds interplay is that we can use this knowledge to improve our wellbeing. Smiling also improves our immune system, makes us live longer and even more attractive. As Thich Nhat Hanh says: “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”