The Psychological Effects of Having a Great Smile
- January 23, 2017
- 6 mins read
It’s something that everyone can do, but not everyone really thinks about. Some people go through great lengths to improve it by means of many dental treatments, while others seem to cover it up when they laugh or find themselves doing it. A very famous one is hanging in the Louvre, though lovers will wax lyrical that their beloved’s own is far more beautiful.
It’s a smile, and while many people don’t give it a great deal of thought (smiling can be done consciously but is more often done unconsciously when coupled with pleased emotions), there are actually a number of effects that smiling can do for you — as well as the people around you.
Many people say that a person’s smile can completely transform their face, lightening it somehow, but they must not realize that this isn’t just physical; psychologically, something as simple as smiling can give you some amazing benefits.
Here are some of them.
How it affects your body
Smiling isn’t just done when you’re happy: it actually makes you even happier. It improves your overall outlook and affects your emotions by sending messages to your brain and causing you to feel happy. How does it do this?
Your brain has neuropeptides that are there to help you fight off stress. These molecules found in the human brain are part of how your brain communicates: by allowing neurons to be in contact with one another, sending messages up and down your entire body. This also means they transmit emotions as they do this: anything from happy to sad, depressed to excited. These specialized molecules are also responsible for the release of bodily chemicals that affect your mood. They transmit serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, and other chemicals. Those three chemicals are almost immediately released when you smile, so even a quick grin will give you a dose of the “happy” chemicals.
Aside from helping you fight stress by giving you a dose of these feel-good chemicals, the endorphins are also a natural pain reliever. This is the same substance that gets released into the body after a great workout, or by the feeling of being in love. It’s also the same substance that chocolate is said to evoke in humans to make them feel happier. So in effect, smiling basically gives you an all-natural anesthetic and a drug-like high, but in a truly organic way, and none of the potential downsides and side-effects that might take place if you were using synthetic drugs.
Serotonin has another function: it keeps depression at bay by keeping your spirits up. In the medical field, psychologists recommend supplements that lift up a person’s serotonin levels to people who have been clinically diagnosed with depression. The medication influences how much of this chemical goes through the body and helps them get through the day. Smiling also does this in a more organic level, and again, without any of the potential side-effects.
Your brain is actually fully aware of smiling (even if you may not be yourself), and keeps track of the incidences it is. The more you smile, the happier you become, mainly because it’s as though you are conditioning your own brain with the happy feelings and thoughts, helping you break the cycle of thinking negatively and thus improving your overall outlook on life.
Smiling affects your biochemistry with an immediate release of tension, cells letting go of their rigid state. This is a potentially lifesaving effect, as there are cancer patients who have actually gone into remission after the stress in their lives had been effectively released.
However, the wonders of smiling also affect the people around you. Here’s what you need to know about it.
How it affects the people around you
Many people say that a person’s face and countenance seems to change when they smile. In fact, in many psychological tests, people are more likely to feel better about someone who appears with a smile as opposed to a person who has a neutral expression on their face.
This is because a person is seen as more attractive when they smile. People tend to behave differently around smiling, attractive people. Studies in Penn State University have found that smiling people appear immediately as more trustworthy, relatable, courteous and reliable. People trust you more as it gives you the appearance of sincerity and joy, and people are drawn to these qualities in a person.
Medical studies have reported that when a human sees another smiling face, the area of their brain called the orbitofrontal cortex responds in a way that is a lot similar to receiving a “reward.” People feel good when they see other people happy or smiling, even if they are not the direct cause of them doing so. Furthermore, face research has reported in 2011 that when tested, both men and women were far more likely to gravitate towards images of people who are smiling, as opposed to those who did not.
Smiling is also rather contagious. In the same way that someone with a particularly “infectious” laugh can have other people laughing, a person with a great smile is able to affect others and perhaps induce them to smile as well. Research in Uppsala University in Sweden have even found evidence that frowning at someone who is smiling, while possible, is actually more difficult than just smiling in return at the other person.
Human brains are wired to be sociable, so someone smiling is more likely to get smiled at in return, which causes an improvement in the “reward” cortexes of our brains, and benefiting both people all around. Passed around in a room, the area immediately lifts. The mirror neurons in their brains will light up, and the mood immediately becomes brighter.
Behavioral scientists, since 1924, have commented and documented how smiling affects us and the people around us. No matter what we are doing or where we are doing it – from solemn errands to truly pleasurable activities such as listening to music – human facial expressions, particularly smiling, make a great impact not just in our mental and emotional states, but also our physical states. And these good effects are passed on to the people around us. Smiling may in fact be the easiest way that we can help ourselves and others have a great day.