You've heard it before, 'When things go bad, just smile', 'A smile makes a big difference', 'It takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown', 'A smile will make you feel better'. But are these sayings actually true, does smiling really make a difference to your mood?
Science tells us that smiling releases neuropeptides (neuro = nervous system), those things that change our mood and help fight off stress. Additionally, the 'feel good' neurotransmitters called dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when you smile. This helps to relax your body and lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever and the release of serotonin works as mood lifter. So why wouldn't you want to smile just from what neuroscience tells us?
My interest is in the customer service industry. When a customer consultant smiles, they not only feel better and react better, the customer feels the same way. It's a bit like a yawn, experiments by psychologists reveal that a smile is infectious.
If you smile, others around you will smile back most times and they get the same benefits as you do. Plus, it is hard to get angry at someone who smiles at you. (Don’t smile at someone who is already angry, you will just inflame the situation.)
So how does this work? It takes about the same amount of muscles to smile as it does to frown, in fact a study of anatomy will tell you it takes around eleven muscles to frown and twelves muscles to smile. Sorry to debunk that myth.
The muscles used to smile are so unique that your brain recognises the effort involved in putting a smile on your dial. And because you always smile when you laugh, the muscles become associated with happiness. So, it works in reverse, you smile and your brain ‘thinks’ that you are happy and will release all that fell-good stuff.
There you have it, four hours of research on neurology, psychology and anatomy by me to tell you what you already knew, smiling will make you feel better and will make those around you feel better.
For those people who don't have a reason to smile or can't force a smile on their face, place a pencil sideways across your mouth. This will use the same twelve muscles associated with smiling and your mood will lift. Just don't do it in public.