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Enough to make you smile

August 2018

Woman with lovely smile
Keep smiling...it will do you good

Wherever you are in the world, there is one gesture that everyone understands…and that is smiling.

Give a lovely smile to a stranger in the street, and inevitable they will smile back. Smiling, unlike laughter, is such a quiet gentle movement and so automatic that many of us will not be aware when we are smiling.

But smiling, or even forcing a smile even when we are feeling down, can it seems alter our mood and make us feel happier.

The first idea about this came from our famous evolutionist Charles Darwin, but various concepts have been banded back and forth over the years  and it was only as recently as the 1980s that studies into smiling brought back the idea that this simple action might not only be the result of happiness, but could also be a trigger happiness.

A Dr. Robert Zajonc, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, was a leading proponent of this theory and his work created new acceptance of the fact that facial action can lead to a change in mood.

The research from this time was based on the concept that when the temperature of any part of the body changes, chemical activities connected with that area are likely to also change.

This research of 30 years ago has now been developed much further, and there seems some evidence that smiling does indeed spur a chemical reaction in the brain that releases “happiness” hormones.
Dr Isha Gupta, a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine, a specialist medical group in New Jersey, America, says that research now indicates that smiling triggers the release of a range of hormones including dopamine and serotonin.

Dr Gupta explains: “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression. Low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression.”

It is an odd idea that we can falsify a smile until we feel like smiling naturally, but this does seem to be what many medical specialists are advocating.

Dr Murray Grossan, an ENT otolaryngologist in Los Angeles, America, believes that the act of smiling can go even further. He says that studies relating to the connection of the brain to the immune system have continually shown that happiness can help boost our body’s resistance while depression can weaken the immune system.

He says: “It’s crazy but just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity. When you smile, the brain recognises the muscle activity.”

Other research has shown that increased smiling over time, fake or natural, can bring about other benefits such as helping to gently reduce blood pressure and lowering the body’s response to stress.

So, a smile costs nothing and can bring about lots of advantages, and now it seems fake smiles can also be beneficial. Maybe it is time we all thought about smiling just a little more.


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