My mother used to tell me when I was a little kid to smile in a mirror even if I felt sad.
She said that the act of smiling would make me happy.
I wasn’t one to ever listen to what she said to me when I was a child, so it took years of rebellion to finally realize that what she was telling me was actually not just true… it was science.
The Power of Smiling
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Big words. The philisophical underpinning of smiling that my mom never knew, but intrinsically she did.
Did you ever notice that when someone smiles at you, it’s a reflex to smile back? While it’s easy to chalk this up to being polite, some studies suggest that it is a result of mirroring behavior, a biological reflex. Scientists have found that it could be a result of our empathetic neurons engaging with our social surroundings. Studies suggest this action brings us more empathy with those around us, allowing us to gage our intrinsic protective or altruistic actions.
“this serendipitous discovery of mirror neurons—a special class of brain cells that fire not only when an individual performs an action, but also when the individual observes someone else make the same movement—has radically altered the way we think about our brains and ourselves, particularly our social selves.”
Smiling has biological benefits for your brain and your body. The act of smiling releases neuropeptides in your brain and increases your level of dopamine and seratonin . Both of these feel-good hormones flood your body with more happiness.
A smile can not only boost your own mood, it can change the mood of people aroud you. Simles spread great joy. Garry Wenk wrote a very illuminating piece in Psychology Today about the power of smiling… “Addicted To Smiling” and in it he writes:
When we smile, fake or real, the contractions of the facial muscles slightly distorts the shape of the thin facial bones. This slight distortion in their shape leads to an increase in blood flow into the frontal lobes of the brain and increases in the release of dopamine (Iwase et al., 2002, Neuroimage 17:758). As a result, walking around all day with a smile on your face will bias your mood to be happier. Not only will you be happier but your smile might spontaneously induce the release of dopamine in someone else’s brain—now that truly demonstrates the power of a smile.
- Smile at people on the street, even if they aren’t smiling at you.
- Look at yourself in the mirror and smile big, even if you don’t feel like smiling . It can change everything in the say.
- Surround yourself with people who make your smile. Pets, too! (Bob constrantly makes me smile!)
- Lean into the actions that make you smile, and let them be a part of your day.
- If you’re insecure about your own smile… own it. There’s no standard of perfect to reach with a smile, it’s all about how it makes you feel! And how it spreads joy!!!
There’s a lot to be said for the simple things, and if you’ve been wanting more happiness, start with more smiling…!
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