The Science of a Smile

“Smile. It’s the boldest statement you can make without saying a word.”

We often see smiling as a simple expression to exhibit the emotion of happiness. Scientifically speaking, it’s actually a complex function involving many of our 43 facial muscles. It’s not hard work, though. As a matter of fact, smiling is sometimes a facial expression used without even realizing it. Studies have shown that babies have been found to smile in the womb, indicating that smiling isn’t a learned behavior; it’s actually innate.

Another fact that leads us to believe that smiling is a basic human function is that it’s expressed ubiquitously across all locations and cultures - a form of communication that crosses language barriers. Smiling is not only a way of communicating without speaking; it’s a benefit to our minds, bodies, and even other people. Let’s take a look at how smiling affects us.

Physical effects of smiling

Your mind and body are not two separate entities; your mental well-being affects your physical well-being and vice versa. It’s been proven that mood and stress levels have a powerful impact on many aspects of your physical health. Elevated stress levels can cause a whole host of problems and conversely, stress-relieving activities have positive health effects.

The good news is that smiling has been scientifically shown to have the capability to reduce stress. When you smile, your brain releases molecules known as neuropeptides. This triggers the release of other chemicals in the brain - dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Each one of these is involved in a systemic function of the body and has a positive effect when increased. A rise in dopamine improves blood flow (reduced blood pressure) and heart health; endorphins act as a natural pain reliever; serotonin helps regulate sleep and wake cycles; aids in bone health, and helps heal wounds. Maybe laughter (and smiling) truly is the best medicine!

Mental and emotional effects of smiling 

The neurotransmitters discussed above (dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins) are responsible not only for physical health benefits but for mental health improvement as well. They activate the pleasure center of the brain, which results in an elevated mood. Many anti-depressant medications target these chemicals, so in a sense, smiling can have a similar effect in relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety. Of course, excessive smiling is not a replacement for professional therapy or medication, but it can certainly help in making you feel better!

How smiling affects others

In the past two years, we've all experienced more isolation than ever due to the pandemic, making it more apparent that we desire connection with others. Socialization is natural for human beings, and as stated earlier, smiling is a natural form of expression. Unfortunately, the masks we got used to wearing hid our smiles underneath, but thankfully, the muscles in our eyes can indicate a smile as well.

It's important for other people to see our smiling faces because our brains don’t just react to our own smiles; they react to others’ smiles as well. One study found that smiling is truly contagious. At a subconscious level, we naturally smile and exhibit feelings of happiness when surrounded by people who do the same. 

Smiling also changes the way others see us. It is considered an attractive gesture. It’s an expression associated with several positive personality traits such as cheerfulness, friendliness, and warmth. What’s more, is that the perception of those traits can enhance your ability to build relationships with others, too.

Smiling has numerous benefits - to your health and others, so try to find reasons to smile often.

Products that will make you smile

Smiling, like using positive affirmations, is a way to boost your mood and stimulate your own happiness. At notes to self®, we’ve found a unique way to encourage you to smile. We put positive affirmations on socks so that every time you look down at your feet you’ll remember there’s a reason worth smiling!

Shop our notes to self® socks, where you can find a variety of positive messages in all colors and styles. 

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