Smiling: The Feedback Loop of Health & Happiness

Smiles speak to the soul 

A smile communicates across cultures and beyond languages. It has the power to melt away disagreements, create new friendships and spread good feelings.

Smiling is also amazing for your health!

The Chemistry of the Smile

Let’s imagine that you see an adorable puppy and it runs up to you and starts snuggling in and being all cute and puppy-like. This will (assuming you like puppies), make you smile.

What’s happening here, is that the positive stimulant (the puppy) triggers your brain’s reward centres, producing endorphins and prompting neuronal signals to travel from the cerebral cortex to the brain stem. From there, the signal is carried through the cranial muscles to the muscles in your face, creating a smile.

This is just the beginning of the feedback loop of joy!

Your contracted facial muscles (smile) fire a signal back to the brain, again activating your reward centres. This releases more endorphins and happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which make us feel good. Oh, puppies.

And so it continues!

This means that smiling for no reason can make us feel good, because the muscles are activating the brain’s reward centres and flooding us with that yummy cocktail of calming chemicals.

How Smiling is Good For Health

Mood Elevator

As explained above, smiling can trigger the release of mood-elevating neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin. Even if you’re feeling down, you can try smiling to activate the neural messaging in your brain. You may feel ridiculous, but maybe that will make you laugh and lighten your mood further!

Stress Reliever

On top of releasing mood elevating neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin to help create feelings of well-being, smiling and generating positive thoughts and emotions decreases the stress hormone, cortisol.

Immune System Booster

Due to the cascade of smile-inducing happy hormones and the lowered amount of cortisol, the body will be in a state of relaxation, which sets the groundwork for a healthy immune system.

Smiling also increases your body’s production of white blood cells, which strengthens your immune system. 

Pain Killer

Smiling triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, increasing pain tolerance and releasing some of these body aches and tensions. Laughter really is the best medicine.

Lowers Blood Pressure

The same feel-good neurotransmitters that are triggered when we smile can lower our heart rate and blood pressure, promoting relaxation.

Smiling Is Contagious

Yes, you can spread the joy. When we see someone smile, our impulse is to smile as well. Why is that? Maybe I want to be all grinchy and cranky.

Our instinct to mimic a person’s face helps us to empathize. If we are talking to a friend who has a sad face, our instinct is to have a sad face as well. The same goes for smiles. 

This is due to special kinds of brain cells called mirror neurons that fire when we observe another person performing an action. These mirror neurons communicate from person to person, basically reflecting each other’s expressions and the feelings that accompany them. This is one way that we empathize. It’s kind of lovely, and really interesting when you start to pay attention. Our own physical and mental reflexes can give us true insight into how another person is feeling. It could be part of the multi-dimensionality of intuition!

Another bonus is that when we see an attractive, smiling face, it activates a region in our brain called the orbitofrontal cortex that processes sensory rewards. This means that when we see someone smiling, we actually feel like we’re being rewarded.

So when someone catches our smile, they get that feedback loop of joy and that makes them feel good. It’s loops creating loops creating loops! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Enjoy the ride, friends!