Awakening your joy and the science of why you should smile.

Smiling is something we do when we experience joy and happiness, but some people say they find it hard to smile because they have nothing to smile about.  When life stressors get the better of us, there are scientific reasons why you should still smile to help you deal with your challenges because even if the smile isn’t genuine you still receive the benefits from smiling.   Smiling can trick your brain into believing you’re happy which can then spur actual feelings of happiness.  Even forcing a fake smile can legitimately reduce stress and lower your heart rate.

What science says about smiling….

Everytime we smile this activates neural messages and releases neuropetides that help us fight off stress.  The neuropetides allow neurons to communicate and act as messages to the entire body and tells our body to respond a certain way depending on our emotional state being happy, sad, angry, depressed, excited, for example, if we are happy and smile the feel-good neurotransmitters (endorphins, serotonin, dopamine), are released in our body which gives a pleasurable feeling and sense of wellbeing. 

Benefits of smiling….

Millions of dollars are spent every year by people trying to boost their health and wellbeing, but a smile costs nothing and can benefit you in so many ways. 

  1. Lowers heart rate – Smiling slows the heart and relaxes the body. Smiling also temporarily reduces blood pressure.
  2. Reduces stress – Smiling releases endorphins that counteract and diminish the stress hormones.
  3. Increases productivity – Smiling has been shown to increase your productivity while preforming tasks.
  4. Lessens pain – Released endorphins lift our moods, but many of these act as natural painkillers too.
  5. Increases attraction – Smiling makes people more attractive. People prefer to be around and are attracted to a person smiling.
  6. Increases longevity – There has been studies that showed people who smile more often live longer too, around 7 years longer.
  7. Boost immune system – Smiling help the body relax and this lets the immune system react more quickly and effectively against virus.

A practice for smiling….

This practice can be used to uplift your mood and awaken your joy, by a simple smile. 

  1. Sit or ly in a comfortable position
  2. Bring your focus to the present moment, a good way to do this is to focus on your breathing. Focusing on the present is helpful because we can’t get caught up and worrying about past or future happenings if we focus on the present.
  3. This may feel a little weird at first but try doing a half smile and notice sensations in your body as you awaken your joy. Notice these sensations for a few minutes.
  4. Next stop smiling and for a few minutes notice the sensations and feelings present when you don’t smile.
  5. Next smile again and notice the warmth and joy return to you, and when you are ready you can open your eyes and continue on with the rest of your day with a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.

For a short guided smiling practice see the video below.

Written by:

Kimberley Aguet – Virtual Psychologist, Counsellor

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