An American Clergyman by the name of Douglas Horton once wrote, “Smile; it’s free therapy.” It is a simple phrase, yet it holds the key to a happier, healthier you.
What is a Smile?
A smile is the upward flexing of the muscles that move our mouths and the contraction of the muscles around our eyes. It is an expression of pleasure on our faces. We naturally use this expression when we are content, happy, pleased or open. Smiling provides an outward invitation to let others know that we are approachable and warm.
The smile is a globally recognized expression. Regardless of where you are from and regardless of your culture, when you see a smile you recognize traits of kindness, sociability and friendliness.
The Science of Smiling.
So, what happens on a cellular level when we smile? Let’s take a look at how our brains react to this positive facial expression.
When we find ourselves in a pleasant situation, the feeling sends a message to our brain, which commands the corners of the mouth to turn up and the eyes to crinkle. But this is far from just it. The minute the smile is formed upon our lips a whole loop begins to take place. The message of our smile travels back into our brain which produces an even stronger feeling of joy than before.
That feeling of happiness transmits to our neurons which trigger excretions of endorphins that fills our system, giving us a sense of euphoria. You know how sugar and sugary foods improve your mood when you are not feeling well? It is those same excretions that are triggered that do the trick. So, next time you find yourself reaching for a chocolate bar, ask yourself why you are craving the sugar. Are you trying to replicate a feeling of happiness? If so, take a moment to sit with that feeling, breathing into it. Go take a look in the mirror, put a big smile on your face and breathe deeply. You might be surprised to find that your state shifts without the need to overindulge in sweets!
Smiling: Nature’s Painkiller!
Simply put, smiling helps us feel better. By creating a feeling of euphoria naturally, this has an overall positive effect our health.
Countless studies performed throughout the years have shown that being happier is directly related to mental and physical health. Patients with heart issues and people who suffer from stress and anxiety all report that they feel healthier when they are happy, and vice versa. The experience of euphoria impacts our lives in a very profound way, whether we are aware of it or not.
Endorphins are nature’s painkiller. People who suffer from chronic pain or disease benefit tremendously from endorphins, which are produced from exercise and feelings of joy. Without having to resort to taking medication for years that will eventually lose its effectiveness and cause more harm than good on the immune system, there are natural ways to fight off disease. Spending time in nature, eating healthy food and getting sufficient amounts of exercise are direct contributors to overall happiness.
I Don’t Need Therapy. I Have My Smile!
We mentioned earlier that endorphins make us feel good; therefore, by simply smiling, we are able to induce happiness and a sense of joy.
As simple as this might sound, it is one of the most important things for people who suffer from stress, anxiety or depression. In a world filled with psychologists and psychiatrists, we have all learned to run to them for sessions upon sessions of therapy, spending top dollar in order to regain our mental health. In order to feel better, we rely on medication and the expensive help of paid professionals to listen to our problems. Before jumping into therapy, have you empowered yourself through self-help, self-love and smiling? You are your own best teacher and your smile is your power!
Whether Your Smile is Real or Fake, it’s Uplifting Power is Contagious!
What if we could be happy without spending a dime? What if we could do this by spending just a few minutes in front of our own reflection? A study published in Psychological Science, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Kansas, produced remarkable results.
After extensive research using subjects who mimicked voluntary and involuntary smiling, the results concluded that smiling is highly contagious. A smile that starts off insincere will very soon turn into a real expression of joy, as the brain is tricked and starts the chemical loop we mentioned above.
When feeling blue or when dealing with depression or anxiety, standing in front of a mirror and smiling can turn an entire experience around. We have the power within ourselves to create joy from within. Try it out!
Brighten Up Someone’s Day!
The positive shifts you will cultivate by incorporating this practice into your daily routine will have a ripple effect out into the world. We are creatures of habit. Every time we smile, we grow more accustomed to it, as it becomes easier and more appealing. By creating positive habits, we not only become more joyful and healthier but also change the energetic chemistry of our environment.
Smile at others and it will usually prompt a smile in return, as the visual image of a grin inspires the brain to react in an expression of delight. This type of connection with another energetic being clears bad chemicals away and floods the system with endorphins.
The delightful energy exchange of a smile or a laugh alters our state in such an amazing way. It is an intoxicating feeling. Some people absolutely beam with happiness. Be a glowing light in someone’s day and exchange a smile, even if you are feeling dark inside. You’ll be surprised how quickly your state will shift!
I am sure you have seen people walking down the street smiling, and exchanging pleasantries with random people that they encounter, and you have often thought to yourself that they must be problem-free. You have the power within yourself to create this kind of world. The power of a smile is a beautiful thing.
All you have to do now, is to join them and smile your way to a better life!
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