This article suggests that when we smile, our brain actually creates a log of when we smile and what makes us smile. This activity log helps overrides the brain’s natural tendency to think negatively and if you smile often enough, it can actually rewire your brain into more positive thought patterns.
So what is it about smiling that makes us feel so good?
Each time we smile it releases tiny ‘feel good’ molecules – endorphins and serotonin - that help fight off stress. Endorphins relax the body, lower our heart rate and blood pressure. They also act as a natural pain reliever. Serotonin acts as a natural anti-depressant and mood lifter. And when we feel good, our productivity increases and our confidence grows.
The three studies below looked at the way smiling can benefit us and our minds/bodies:
A 2012 study in Kansas saw participants move their mouths into forced smiles with chopsticks! Sounds crazy, but the experiment found that the people with the biggest forced smiles experienced a substantial reduction in heart rate and quicker stress recovery after completing a stressful task, compared to those who kept a neutral facial expression.
In 2004, a study at Penn State University found that happiness spreads, smiley employees working within the service industry left a more positive impression on customers than those who did not smile. Customers were left feeling happier and more inclined to smile at others too. These smiles cannot be forced however, they must be authentic!
A Pittsburgh University study discovered that a smiling person is regarded as more trustworthy than someone who frowns or holds a neutral expression. Their study asked people to rank photos of models based on their perceived trustworthiness. The bigger the smile, the more trustworthy they were perceived as being.
To find out why smiling is perceived as infectious we really have to look back to Darwin’s 'Science of Smiling'. He theorised that smiling was a universal behaviour. Other nonverbal body language traits are more likely learnt, as they are different depending on which culture you are observing. Darwin also found that we are ‘prewired’ to connect with others via smiling, which means that people who are physically unable to smile find it more difficult to develop social relationships.
So there you have it. Smiling is scientifically proven to help us connect with people. What could you do today that would make you smile? The people around you will thank you for it!