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.
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, Psychological Science a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas 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.
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, The Voluntary Facial Action Technique: A Method to Test the Facial Feedback Hypothesis, 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.