(Health Secrets) Want a quick easy way to a healthy joy buzz? Try smiling says plenty of research. When we smile we create the biochemical neurotransmitters serotonin and endorphins that trigger feelings of happiness and well being. Scientists suggest that our emotions are reinforced, maybe even created by facial expressions.
Serotonin regulates our moods, sleep, sexuality, appetite, and happiness through a feed back loop. Good mood, restful sleep, sex and great food create the smiles that keep serotonin pumping, and the serotonin perpetuates our good mood feelings.
Smiling releases endorphins too, which are known as the body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins are released during laughing, exercise, frequent sex, eating chocolate, sunbathing, massages, meditation, dancing, singing and listening to music. The more endorphins circulating in the body the more effectively you fight off symptoms of illness.
Research has shown smiling positively affects our:
Sense of well-being and positive outlook
Resilience against stress
Charles Darwin, in 1872, posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings. He wrote, “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it.” William James, 19th-century psychologist, stated that if a person does not express an emotion, he has not felt it at all. Current research suggests emotions involve more than just the brain: the face, in particular, appears to plays a big role.
Psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales, found individuals with impaired ability to frown due to cosmetic botox injections are generally happier, than those who can frown. Study co-author Michael Lewis reported, “It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn’t just restricted to our brain—there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we’re having…It’s like a feedback loop.”
According to a study published in the Journal of Pain, people who frown during an unpleasant procedure report feeling more pain than those who do not. Researcher Lewis states, “Smiling has widespread mental and physical health benefits. More than merely an automatic expression of friendliness, politeness or a good mood, smiling also influences our brain chemistry, triggering feelings of happiness and pleasure. Even if we feel quite miserable, we can give ourselves a real boost by smiling. Simply changing our facial expression can improve how we see ourselves, and the world.”
Although serotonin acts as a natural anti-depressant, does reshaping our mouth from a frown to a smile create a shift in our sense of well-being from negative to positive? Guillaume Duchenne, a pioneering researcher of smiles found that not all smiles are created equal.
Every culture worldwide recognizes a smile, but the “Duchenne smile” has been proven by science to confer the most powerful, immediate benefits. Guillaume Duchenne, a 19th century French physician, acknowledged as one of the founders of modern neurology, discovered a linking brain function to muscle control and spent years researching the countless emotional secrets of facial expressions, in particular smiles.
The Duchenne smile is defined by the exact muscles involved in creating it and by identifying the health benefits it confers. Smiles involving the orbicularis oculi muscles (the muscles that pull your eyes into a squint, making for wrinkles at the bridge of the nose and around the eyes’ outside edges) are authentic expressions of joy, according to Duchenne.
More benefits of smiling:
Releases endorphins’ natural pain killers
Makes us attractive
Lifts the face and makes us look younger
Makes us appear successful
Helps us stay in a positive mood
Life is interactive not just within the self, but between oneself and others. Each day we have an opportunity to be healers. We can diminish our own stress—but more than that, a contagious smile can diminish the stress of the person sitting next to you. A smile conveys hope.
To live a health, empowered life, remember the benefits of smiling:
*There is an automatic attraction to people who smile (be on the look out for smiles in return)
*When you are not feeling well, smiling releases happy neurotransmitters and natural pain killers to help us improve our attitude and improve the way we feel
*Others will want to be with us (we can feel when others genuinely want to be with us)
*We will be helping others feel good (How many children could be saved from drug/alcohol addiction if their parents really smiled at them?)
*Smiling helps us look better, less tired, less worn down, less stressed (“dress for success” includes a smile)
*Smiling helps normalize blood pressure (who wants to take liver damaging medication if smiling and a few lifestyle changes can manage the problem?).
Photo by J Kaps