Imagine for a moment that there were a way to make yourself a happier, more productive person. Something that could, without any harmful side-effects, literally change your brain chemistry to make you more cheerful. On top of its ability to alter your brain, it would be completely free of charge and extremely contagious – improving not only your life but the lives of everyone around you as well.
Thankfully, and as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I’m not talking about some magical, imaginary technique. I’m talking about smiling.
That’s right, just smiling. Most people don’t realize how drastic of an effect smiling can have on us. I’m not just talking about seeing other people smile either, just the action of smiling directly affects what chemicals are released in our brains. Let’s take a look at some of the effects.
- Increased Happiness – Most people think that a smile is just an outward expression of happiness that is the result of our brains already being made happy by something. It turns out though that it isn’t a one-way street; the brain is constantly ‘checking’ the facial muscles. When it checks and finds you smiling, it releases the same hormones (endorphins, etc.) that compel us to smile in the first place. What this means is that a smile, even a faked one, can physically make you feel happier. As a side benefit, it even helps lower blood pressure.
- Improved Perceptions – Consciously putting a smile on your face doesn’t just make you feel good, it makes everyone else feel good too. A study conducted by Penn State University showed that when people observe someone smiling they consider them more attractive (well, duh), courteous, likable and – most interestingly – found they appeared more competent.
- The Smile Cascade – Everyone already knows that smiles are contagious. One of the reasons for this is because we naturally mimic other people’s smiles when we see them to help determine if they are sincere or not. This mimicry causes a mild cascade effect. You smile, someone sees you smile and instinctively mimics it, that causes their brain to release endorphins which makes them happy, they smile even more and it continues. This also means the more you smile, the more often endorphins will be released in people’s brains when they see you. The more that happens the more they’ll associate you with feeling good.
So how do you best take advantage of all these benefits? It’s easy – smile more. Of course, most people can spot a forced smile when they see one, so do your best to make it as genuine as you can. The best way to do that is to imagine something that makes you really, really happy and focus on that visualization for a moment while making yourself smile. Another good trick is to picture someone else already smiling, which will naturally make you want to do the same.
Have any other tips to add or personal experiences with this technique? Let us know!