The Science of Smile


Psychologists agree that all human beings show emotion through certain behaviors regardless of their race, culture, or age, as we have common behaviors that show our emotions. One of these universal facial expressions is the “smile”, which is the natural involuntary response to happiness. Based on science, the opposite is also true; smiling can really create happiness. Faking a smile changes the brain’s physiology and turns negative emotions into positive ones.

What happens in the brain when we smile?

Sometimes we encounter some situations that make us happy—such as meeting an old friend—where our first reaction is a spontaneous and unplanned smile. Happiness stimulates the secretion of endorphins; where nerve impulses move from the brain to the facial muscles stimulating the smile.

Sometimes, your smile is your source of happiness even if you are forced to smile. When you smile, the muscles responsible for smiling contract releasing a signal to stimulate the reward system in your brain; the endorphins which make us happy are, thus, released. In short, our brain feels comfortable and tells us to smile; this smile tells our brain that we are feeling good.

British researchers discovered that one smile can stimulate the reward system in the brain the same amount as 2000 pieces of chocolate do. When talking about happiness, the first thing that pops up is children; they always look happier than adults. It was discovered that the reason is that they smile a lot; they smile 400 times per day, while adults smile only 20 times per day.

The Effect of Smiling on Health

An experiment was conducted to know the connection between smiling and stress; it showed that people who smile while going through their daily routine have lower levels of stress and anxiety, and lower blood pressure level and heartbeats. Smiling alone can enhance the mood, reduce obesity, mental disorders, and heart diseases. Smiling also helps you live longer; it controls cortisol levels that cause stress and anxiety, and enhance the functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain—such as dopamine and serotonin—which are responsible for regulating cognitive, mental, and physical functions.

The Effect of Smiling in Social Life

People who smile are more admired than those who do not, because it is easy to build and maintain social relationships with them, in addition to their success in their professional life. When you smile, people treat you differently, because your smile makes you more honest, reliable, and attractive. Moreover, your smile may be a natural way to look younger without plastic surgery.

Your smile does not only boost your mood, it can also enhance others' mood and morale, because smiling is contagious. Seeing others smile stimulates your smile; the part of our brain responsible for controlling the facial expression associated with smiling is a spontaneous, unconscious response area, which means that smiling can occur subconsciously.

With time, some of us forget how to smile sincerely; and only smile for social purposes. What is important is to always try to smile, even if you are frustrated or stressed. Remember that changing your behavior through smiling can change your inner feelings. In other words, if you wear a "happy face", you will feel happy.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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