Whether you’ve just had a good day or not, it’s always nice to see someone smiling. Smiling is contagious, and the physical act of smiling can actually make you feel happier. But what if your smile isn’t genuine? What if you’re faking your happiness to be polite or socially acceptable? That’s when things get complicated. In this blog post, you’ll learn what happens in/to your brain when you physically smile and how that affects others around you both psychologically and neurologically.
Backed by findings
In a study done by Strack et al., they hypothesized that smiling makes people feel happier because it encourages the brain to experience positive feelings directly. To test this, they had participants hold a pen in their mouth using only their teeth at different angles to create different facial expressions. Holding the pen between one’s teeth causes muscles of the face associated with smiling to contract, thus creating that expression.
The control group held a pen normally without having to make any facial expressions, and the experimental group held the pen between their teeth in the same way. They were then given a series of tests to measure their moods. The results showed that those who were forced to smile using the pen rated their happiness higher than those who didn’t have to smile.
The study provides evidence that smiling actually makes people feel happier by encouraging the brain to be in a more positive mindset.
What your brain does when you smile
When you smile, your brain sends signals to the muscles in your face that cause them to contract and produce a physical change on the outside. This change makes you look and feel happier and more content than before. Your brain can do this because of something called “facial feedback hypothesis.”
It works when you send signals from the brain to the muscles in your face, it also sends signals back to the brain. The feedback from these facial movements somehow changes your mood and mental status. So if you smile when you’re happy, it reinforces feelings of happiness deep within your mind.
What your brain does when you fake smile
Your brain is really good at telling the difference between a genuine and a faked smile. Researchers have been testing this phenomenon with MRI scans for years now, and they’ve discovered some interesting information on what happens when people try to smile when they’re not feeling it.
When people fake a smile, the muscles in their face still contract. But the brain gets less activity from the areas that are associated with happiness. In other words, when you fake smile, you’re not actually getting the same benefits as when you smile genuinely. Some argue that it can cause more stress. You might think that faking a smile will make you feel happier, but it doesn’t.
What your brain does when you smile at others
When somebody smiles at you, it activates the reward center in your brain that might make you feel good about yourself. Other people are able to detect this feeling of happiness, too—in fact, they can pick up on these signals even if they don’t consciously see the smile.
One study found that when people were asked to rate the happiness of strangers in photographs, they were better able to detect smiles even if they were only flashed on the screen for just 1/20th of a second. That’s because the human brain is really good at picking up on these tiny clues that someone is happy.
When you smile at someone, it can also encourage them to be happier. Researchers at Michigan State University found that smiles are contagious—when you see somebody smiling, your brain thinks they’re happy, which will make you feel better. So if you want to be more friendly with the people around you, just give them a smile.
What your brain does when you smile at yourself
When you look in the mirror, chances are you’ll see a stranger staring back at you. But after doing this for about 45 minutes every day, people begin to see themselves differently—as others see them. If somebody were to ask you how you’d react if they smiled at you, your answer probably wouldn’t be the same as if somebody were to smile at you in the mirror.
One study showed that after some people looked at their reflections for 45 minutes, they would actually smile back subconsciously without even realizing it. When you see yourself smiling back at you something happens inside your brain—you start thinking of yourself as someone who is happy and friendly.
Getting that perfect smile
While a smile is a natural reaction to feeling happy, not everyone is born with a perfect smile. If you’re self-conscious about your teeth, don’t worry—there are ways to fix it.
Generally speaking, if you keep up with your daily brushing and overall dental health, it does wonders to your teeth. You mustn’t also forget to visit your dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning. If you’re not happy with the appearance of your teeth, you might also want to consider cosmetic dentistry.
Several procedures can help improve the appearance of your smile, such as veneers, dental implants, and braces. With today’s technology, there are plenty of options to choose from, so you’ll certainly find a procedure that will help give you a perfect smile.
Smiling is something we do every day, and it has benefits that go well beyond making us feel happy. It can influence those around us as well as improve our health. So now you know—smile often to be happier and healthier.