Modern times have made it a challenge for many to keep up their psychological wellbeing — especially given the current global situation. The pandemic, together with the precautionary stay at home measures, has made it difficult for many to maintain a positive outlook.
While it’s completely understandable if you aren’t feeling too chipper these days, it’s more important than ever to find something to smile about. Seeing a smiling face stimulates the reward centres of the brain, releasing the much-needed happy hormones that help relieve stress. In the same vein, smiling yourself can also have a positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing.
The Duchenne Smile
A French neurologist, Guillaume Duchenne, classified 2 kinds of smiles — the Duchenne and the non-Duchenne.
The first kind involves the contraction of 2 facial muscles: the zygomaticus major (which raises the corners of your mouth) and orbicularis major (raises your cheeks and the corners of your eyes). A person smiling with both her eyes and their mouths are giving you a Duchenne smile. The non-Duchenne smile is when a person only uses the zygomaticus major muscle and smiles with only his mouth.
A 2012 study by Tara L. Kraft entitled “Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response” discovered that “…all smiling participants, regardless of whether they were aware of smiling, had lower heart rates during stress recovery than the neutral group did, with a slight advantage for those with Duchenne smiles.”
Benefits of Smiling
Here are the many ways smiling can improve your psychological health and behaviour:
Encourages the Production of Happy Hormones
Smiling can also improve the psychological wellbeing of children and adults alike. The often underrated triggers the production of these helpful hormones:
- Oxytocin – Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone produced by the hypothalamus. It plays a huge role in social bonding, reproduction, and childbirth.
- Dopamine – Dopamine plays both roles as a neurotransmitter and hormone. As a neurotransmitter, your body’s nervous system uses dopamine to pass signals from one nerve cell to another. As a hormone, it influences several behavioural functions, such as your mood, learning, and attention.
- Endorphins – The endorphins’ main role is to minimize pain and increase pleasure. Once you finish exercising, your body releases endorphins which is what makes you feel good afterwards. Your body’s central nervous system and pituitary gland produce this hormone. Consider them as your body’s natural pain relievers.
- Serotonin – Like dopamine, it serves more than one role in your body to keep it functioning. This hormone is made from tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Serotonin helps regulate your mood, and it sends messages from one part of your brain to another. It also helps your muscles and cardiovascular system run smoothly.
Gives Your Mood a Needed Boost
While it may seem counterintuitive, if you’re having a bad day, smiling can help lift your spirits up. Smiling stimulates the production of happy hormones. The act can trick you into feeling happier, improving your mood and help you get through your day.
In a way, pretending to be happy can make you actually happy — and that’s a psychological fact.
Lowers Stress Levels
When experience stress, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol to help you cope with your current situation. Cortisol can be helpful to you in the beginning. However, if you are constantly feeling stressed, this hormone will start to cause both physical and psychological problems. The mere act of smiling can help you lessen your stress levels.
If you are feeling stressed out, your body is on alert and it activates your fight-or-flight response. Your adrenal glands begin to produce the stress hormone, cortisol. Apart from helping you deal with stress, cortisol also does the following:
- Manages your wake/sleep cycle
- Controls your blood pressure
- Oversees your body’s usage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats
- Raises your glucose level
Improves Your Learning and Focus
When someone tells a funny joke, you either respond by smiling or laughing — or both. Sharing a laugh with others also makes it possible for you to remember that joke better so you can share it with others.
A study from Ohio University shows that students pay more attention to classes when teachers integrate humour into their lectures. It can boost a person’s ability to focus on the moment and, for students, on the lessons. In addition, smiling lowers cortisol levels, allowing for better recall.
Increases Work Productivity
While monitoring your work productivity is important, you should not forget to do the same for your happiness. Smiling can also help boost your productivity while you work. The dopamine released when you smile gives your brain the energy it needs to focus on tasks and solve problems. This allows you to get more done and complete your tasks.
Relieves Anxiety and Depression
Feelings of anxiety and sadness are a normal part of life. However, if you regularly experience these feelings and they begin to interfere with your day-to-day life, you might be dealing with an anxiety disorder or depression.
Both these disorders have their unique symptoms, all of which can negatively affect your quality of life. Because smiling triggers the production of happy hormones, it can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
However, this does not mean that smiling is a cure-all. While it can help manage negative feelings to a certain extent, if you have severe anxiety or depression, seek professional help right away.
Positively Affects Others
Simply looking at a smiling baby can make people smile. Similar to laughter, smiling is contagious. Humans instinctually mimic each other’s expressions since it also allows people to show each other the ability to empathize.
Flashing others a smile will likely make them smile in response. If they do, they will immediately start to feel the positive benefits that come with it. Give your friends — or even a stranger — a warm smile. Who knows? It might be just the thing to make their day.
You Are Seen as Trustworthy
Did you know that your smile can also help you gain someone’s trust? A smiling man or woman is also perceived by other people to be trustworthy. One study shows that women’s smiles, especially when they increase their intensity, links to greater trustworthiness.
If there is one wellbeing tip you follow today, let it be this — keep smiling. Even if you do not feel like doing so, try to smile more and let it reach your eyes. You can gain a wide variety of psychological benefits from that simple act — and you can positively affect other people as well.
Show off your pearly whites with confidence and make the world a brighter place. We here at Cosmo Dental Centre are here for you. Our team excellently provides various dental services that will brighten your smile and your day.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we are closing our doors to services that are not urgent as recommended by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons and the College of Dental Hygienists. However, please feel free to contact us if you have any concerns or questions at (519) 659-2767.