It seems like the older we get the less we smile, people get more serious facial expressions and may frown more. In our modern-day life, stress becomes more prominent. The older we get the more responsibilities come our way and the more stressful life gets.
While smiling alone can’t solve life’s problems, smiling is one solution to help us during stressful times, as it can miraculously change our mood!
The Biology of Smiling
Not only will you look more attractive while smiling, it also triggers chemical processes within the body. Endorphins are neuropeptides and are produced in the central nervous system, these transmitters travel to the brain and the effect is pain suppression. Thus you can smile your pain away!
Then we have the stress hormone Cortisol. Cortisol produces glucose for energy when you are stressed, which is useful but it also reduces your immune system response, which is not so useful as this leaves your body vulnerable. But guess what? Smiling reduces blood cortisol levels.
The exciting thing is, you don’t need to feel happy to produce an effective smile, even if you fake it, your brain will still have the same positive response to smiling. Your brain doesn’t know a real smile from a fake one. Therefore when you feel down, just try smiling for a little while, you might just start to feel uplifted. The other exciting thing is smiling is really contagious, when you see somebody smile, you can’t help yourself, you have to return that smile!
Why is Smiling Important?
Besides the health benefits you gain from smiling, a smiley face is also much more attractive and approachable as opposed to a grumpy expression. Appearing more approachable makes building work or social relationships much easier. A positive state of mind is also much more resourceful than a negative and pessimistic one, which in turn will lead you to feel more confident. Generally, people want to be around happy, confident individuals, and that social support will make you feel even more positive.
Practise Smiling Every Day
A few years ago I went through one of those life-transforming years, you know, the kind of year that includes loss, heartbreak, a crisis of identity, and a sense of being utterly lost. It was also the year when I choose to take part in a public journey of sharing one happy moment from each day for the entire 365 days, obviously not knowing it was going to be such a tough year. When I hit the first rough patch I considered giving up on my public promise of sharing happiness, but so many people had told me how much they were enjoying what I was sharing. I felt obliged to carry on. Some days were so dark that I had to work hard to find a moment which I could class as positive, sometimes having to resort to the act of having a cup of tea. After a few months, I began to notice that despite experiencing difficult times, I was feeling quite positive. Forcing myself to look for the silver lining on darker days had served not only my positivity project but my own mental health and outlook. Making a little effort each day had a big impact in the long run.
Back to smiling. While I don’t think you can simply smile your way to happiness, I do know that good habits go a long way towards improving your mental health, and a positive outlook allows us to deal with life’s problems more easily. Just as we are encouraged to exercises regularly and eat a healthy balanced diet, I recommend you make a conscious effort to smile a little more each day and see what effect it has on your life and relationships.
I will leave you now with the lyrics of the famous Nat King Cole song ‘Smile’.
“Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through