What’s in a smile? The good things in life

General belief is that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. Some say it takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile while others say it takes 62 muscles to frown and 26 to smile. Whichever the case, research has concluded that, in general, smiling is good for you, but we rarely think about all of the benefits a smile can actually have.

Physical Benefits

When you smile, neural messaging is sent to the brain, which activates your feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are very effective in fighting off stress and keeping your body more relaxed, which in turn has been found to lower your blood pressure and heart rate. Additionally, endorphins act as natural pain relief while serotonin is a great way to lift your mood and can even be an effective anti-depressant.

Multiple research studies have shown the really awesome fact about smiling is that it has close to the same benefit whether or not the smile comes naturally or is forced. The simple act of smiling is enough for your body to transmit messages to your brain creating both conscious and unconscious impacts.

These are just the physical results that have been observed. Not to mention, a research at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland confirmed that smiling is, actually, more attractive. Study results found both men and women were more attracted to smiling faces than to pictures of people frowning.

Positive Impact on Your Surroundings

Additionally, smiling (and frowning) are some of the very few gestures that carry a universal meaning across most cultures and can express emotion even if confronted with language barriers. Smiling can be very contagious and research has even shown that simply smiling at someone else triggers that person’s brain to have the same unconscious response.

A Swedish study exploring emotion responses found that when participants were shown a picture of someone smiling, most usually returned a smile. It actually took conscious effort for them to frown at the smile. That’s how influential your smile can be to somebody else.

Success in Business and School

Smiling can also create a more attractive, confident self, which in turn can positively help you at work or school. A Pennsylvania State University study found smiling can make a person appear more likeable and competent, which can directly affect success in business relations.

Even though at times it may not be easy to smile, intentionally smiling can retrain your brain to think more positively and eventually make your smile feel more natural and meaningful the more you practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known peace activist and Princeton University graduate once said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Each day has many stressors waiting. Deadlines for work and school, family turmoil, financial stress, not to mention all of the traumatic world headlines reported each day on the news. These stressors can leave us feeling depressed, beat down, mad, discontent and feeling unable to be happy or smile. Even if you find yourself feeling down or even desperate, try a smile.

Yes, there may be other necessary actions you need to take to work through your feelings or situation, but during the process, try a smile. It may be more powerful than you think.

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Questions?

Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kaua’i community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Esther Solomon at esolomon@haleopio.org. For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i, please go to www.haleopio.org

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