They say it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, and although there’s no hard evidence to support that, we do know that smiling comes with some real-life benefits. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially after a long and stressful day. But if you can take it upon yourself to crack a smile, you’ll actually feel better.
Release the Endorphins!
When you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress. Then other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins come into play too. The endorphins act as a mild pain reliever, whereas the serotonin is an antidepressant. One study even suggests that smiling can help us recover faster from stress and reduce our heart rate. In fact, it might even be worth your while to fake a smile and see where it gets you. There’s been some evidence that forcing a smile can still bring you a boost in your mood and happiness level. That being said, if you’re suffering from depression or anxiety you should talk to your physician immediately to find the best treatment for you.
Creating a Ripple Effect
It turns out the benefits of smiling aren’t just limited to yourself — it can also affect those around you too. We’ve already talked about how our brains react when we smile, but we’re also rewarded when we see someone else smile too! The reward center of our brain is activated and it makes us feel a little better. Plus, one Swedish study suggests that we can’t help but react with a smile of our own when we see someone smiling — so it’s an all-out infectious loop of happiness.
Happy in the Face, Boss in the Workplace
Feel-good benefits aside, smiling and happiness can actually affect your job performance. A team of economists performed a study and found that “human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings, while negative emotions have the opposite effect.” Another study linked decision-making, processing and learning to the release of dopamine triggered by happiness, so smiling can also make you a more creative and efficient worker.
So the next time you’re feeling like a pick-me-up, try busting out a toothy grin and it could give you the lift you’re looking for. And if you’re already in a good mood, why not flash those pearly whites at a stranger and pass along the good vibes?