Smile. Its one of your super powers.
Ever wondered why smiling makes those around you feel good?
When you do a proper smile two sets of muscles in your face contract. The first are the zygomatic major muscles, which control the corners of your mouth and result in a social “Mona Lisa”, sort of fake smile. These smiles are for you to command at your will. See my attempt top left!
However, for a truly authentic smile you need the services of your orbicularis oculi, the muscles that go all the way around the eye socket. See the difference above right – it’s like your eyes smile, giving you a perfect set of crow’s feet at the side! And a word of caution, excessive exercising of these little friends gives you wrinkles but don’t let this stop you.
Together these muscles fire signals, via the seventh cranial nerve into the back of the brain stem and into the brain which dutifully responds with the release of a cocktail of feel good hormones: endorphins, neuropeptides, serotonin, and dopamine. These turn the signals around and send them back to the face with instructions to smile. There is a positive feedback loop that just makes you feel relaxed and happy.
And the good news. Thanks to this positive feedback loop, you can fake it, sending manual instructions to the brain to release happy hormones, with a simple smile. If faking it is a real chore, hold a pencil in your mouth and you’ll get the same result but possibly not a good look if you are in a crowded room!
So, smiling helps you relax, lifts your mood, lowers your stress and gives your immune system a boost for a healthier and longer life.
And it’s not just you who benefits. Your smile is contagious, a powerful force of good energy so don’t hold back, keep smiling and the world will be a better place.