Did you know that smiling – whether you feel like it or not – causes your brain to releases neuropeptides that fight off stress? Neuropeptides allow neurons to communicate messages throughout your body relaying relaxation, stress and other messages. Simply smile as you breathe in through your nostrils and out through your mouth three times. This simple exercise of raising the edges of your mouth into a smile releases the feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and some endorphins. The breathing helps move energy out of your body. This simple exercise relaxes your body and can decrease your pain level if you have any. It slows your pulse rate, lowers your blood pressure and lessens the chance you will get sick, too. All very good reasons to plaster that smile on your face multiple times a day since the movement of the muscles triggers such a positive response.
There is a second major benefit to smiling. When you smile at others, it causes their orbitofrontal cortex (a reward center) to light up so that they feel better, too. They see you as more attractive, reliable and sincere and will treat you better according to the research. Perhaps if you practice in front of a mirror, you can get the circuit to work for you in both directions as the giver and the receiver although I am not aware of research to confirm this hypothesis. Mother Teresa once said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”
Remember, you don’t have to feel good first to do it. Pulling up a happy memory may make it easier to do. But if you start smiling frequently throughout the day – especially if you pull the smile all the way up to your eyes – you will begin to feel better. It has been said that a smile stimulates your brain’s reward system in a way that even chocolate can’t outdo. No calories, no side effects. And it’s free. And its effects may even increase over time with frequent practice.