Smiling, even if you don’t genuinely feel happy at that moment, can have great benefits for your mental and emotional health.

Happiness makes us smile, but smiling also makes us feel happier. In an experiment conducted in 1988, people found cartoons to be funnier if they watched them while holding a pencil between their teeth, which made their facial expression resemble a smile. Researchers explained this phenomenon with a theory called “facial feedback,” which suggests that facial expressions not only reflect internal emotions but can also influence the emotions that are experienced.

According to this theory, facial feedback occurs when facial expressions activate certain emotional responses in the brain, which in turn reinforces or modifies the original emotion. When you smile, facial muscles are activated and signals are sent to the brain that can induce the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These chemicals are known for their ability to improve mood, reduce anxiety and stress, and increase overall sense of well-being.

For example, if a person feels sad and frowns, this facial expression can send a signal to the brain to produce more feelings of sadness. Similarly, if a person feels anxious and smiles, this can send a signal to the brain to decrease anxiety. Even if people are not aware that they are smiling, the signals created by the corners of the mouth turning upward return to the brain and automatically improve mood.

We don’t just think and feel with our brains.

Positive emotions, such as joy and happiness, can reduce the level of stress hormones in our body (such as cortisol) and even increase pain tolerance. In other words, smiling and laughing not only distract you from stress or sadness, but they can also act as drugs that directly stimulate a global sense of well-being in the brain. It is worth noting that, in the long run, chronic exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can have negative effects on our physical and mental health, such as decreased immunity, cognitive dysfunction, and depression.

We do not only think and feel with our brain, but consciousness and emotions take shape through the interaction of the entire body with its environment and itself. How many times have you stopped doing things because you think you’re not having a good day and that when you feel better, you’ll start doing things? I consider this a mistake because if we start doing things, even if we’re not in the mood, we’ll start feeling happier. Our behavior can actually change our emotions.

Smiling is a universal gesture that allows us to express happiness, joy, or pleasure. People who smile frequently are happier than those who don’t. A happy person is smiling most of the time even though they don’t always have reasons to do so.

Incorporating Smiling into Your Daily Routine

Your brain doesn’t distinguish whether your smile is fake or genuine, it simply knows that you’re smiling, and assumes that you’re happy. As a result, your emotional state starts to shift towards optimism in order to be congruent with the act of smiling, which can help you feel happier. Adding a smile to your daily routine can bring you great benefits, such as improving the quality of your interpersonal relationships, helping you connect with others, enhancing your social well-being, and creating a more positive atmosphere in social interactions that can make people feel more comfortable and relaxed in your presence. Additionally, smiling can improve others’ perception of you, as people are considered more attractive and friendly when they smile.

When we smile, both our heart and brain are significantly stimulated, even more so than when we consume chocolate or caffeine, but without their negative effects. If you are happy, those around you are 25% more likely to be happy as well. Although it may seem insignificant, smiling can improve your health, self-esteem, social life, and image. Try it for yourself.

Sometimes joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.- Thich Nhat Hanh

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