A Smile Has Health Benefits for Mind, Body and Spirit. Research shows that the simple act of smiling, even when you don’t feel like it activates the brain’s neural messaging system with a variety of health benefits. No prescription needed, and no adverse side effects.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
How Smiling Affects Your Brain. ‘Feel good’ neurotransmitters are released.
- Release of dopamine (mediates pleasure in the brain, improves focus and attention.)
- Release of endorphins (natural pain relief.)
- Release of serotonin (improves mood.)
- Muscle relaxation (relief of muscle tension.)
- Lowering of blood pressure and heart rate.
- Neuropeptides are also released (decreases stress and inflammation.)
My Personal Experience With Smiling. Anyone who knows me knows that I frequently go through life with a smile on my face. Sometimes consciously, but often subconsciously or even unconsciously as an expression of my perpetual state of joy and gratitude. I often notice that when I pass people smiling, they smile back. My husband says he was attracted to me because of my smile. Research shows that a smile is (the best kind of) contagious and can improve our mood, as well as the mood of those around us.
A Smile Can Make You Feel Better and May Help Prevent Injury – The result of the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, decreased muscle tension, and improved focus. Smiling, a sense of gratitude, and my practice of self-reiki has helped prevent worse injury and soreness on two occasions.
One experience was cross-country skiing in Maine. The intermediate (blue) trail I was on was steep and icy, with a sharp curve at the bottom of the hill. My friend Mary, a much better went first. No problem. I slowly followed, but gained momentum coming down the hill. Losing control on the ice, I went left but the trail went right. Off-trail and unable to stop, I slammed into a tree with my chest and shoulder. Literally hung up in the tree, arms entangled in the limbs and ski tips buried two feet in the snow beneath.
Laughing at my predicament. Stuck and unable to move, Oliver Hardy’s catch phrase came to mind – “Well here’s another nice mess you got me into.” ‘I began laughing at my predicament thinking, ‘if only this could have been recorded.’ I am sure it might have won on America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ I asked people skiing past me if they had a camera. No one stopped. Mary finally made her way back to me, but had trouble extricating me from the tree and my skies. She had to tell me to ‘Stop laughing!‘ so I could try to help her help me. The endorphin release from laughing so hard was certainly a saving grace. The calmness in the moment that comes from my daily practices of (self) reiki and meditation, also very helpful. While also using standard conventional care of ice and an anti-inflammatory, I am convinced the combination was most helpful and the next day I had no bruising and only minimal soreness.
The second experience occurred during a car accident. While on my way to SeniorCare Inc., yesterday’s icy road conditions prevented me from getting there. My car went into a slide on the ice and I was unable to correct. I slid across the road into oncoming traffic, hit a curb, and landed in a ditch off the opposite side of the road, facing ongoing traffic. (Lying in a ditch alongside Dory Road. was a heck of a way to first learn the name of the road that leads to the Blackburn Industrial Park!)
Much to be grateful for. First and foremost, I was grateful no one else was involved or hurt. Realizing I was safe, uninjured and feeling grateful, I sat there smiling. I knew it could have been worse. I narrowly missed going deeper into the woods, into a deeper ditch. My car swung around enough to make it easier to extract. I had a running car to stay warm in, a working cell phone to call my husband and AAA, and lots of kind people stopped to check on my well-being. (That’s Gloucester!) With cars, buses, tractor-trailer trucks and plows coming down the icy hill towards, us potentially sliding into us … :O I called the Gloucester Police who arrived promptly, keeping everyone safe as they directed traffic. I have many people to thank!
‘Thank You’ to –
- The many bystanders that stopped to offer help. (Shout out to the guy that drove by taking photos of my car in the ditch, I’d love a copy! Please contact me via phone or email to.)
- Kevin from Tally’s AAA Roadside Assistance; the 1st person to stop and check on me. He also later was the guy that came to my home to jumpstart my husband’s truck. (Which would have been driving that 4-wheel vehicle if not for a dead battery!)
- Gloucester Police Officer Chris Frates for keeping me safe and warm while waiting for a tow, and for a ride to the auto repair shop.
- Annisquam Auto Repair – Scottie Cook for ride home and Chris for later delivering my cell phone.
If you smile, the whole world smiles with you ….
Smile: make yourself and others feel better and make the world a better place – Research shows that smiling may even help you live longer. A smile makes you feel better and makes others smile, so they feel better too. So much kindness in one afternoon certainly made me smile.
Let your smile ‘ripple out’ to others and make the world a better place. – Karen
Sunday. January 12th. Magnolia Cabin Fever at the Magnolia Community Center. A fundraiser for the Magnolia Library. 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM. Stop by our booth and share ‘What Kindness Means to You’ to enter into a raffle for prizes.
Karen Pischke B.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N. Alumnus. Certified Hypnotherapist, Tobacco Treatment Specialist, Usui Reiki Teacher/Komyo Shihan. Owner/Founder of Dreamtime Wellness LLC. Your Bridge to Health. Promoting Optimal Wellness for Mind, Body and Spirit www.DreamtimeWellness.com. Find us on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dreamtime-Wellness-/348619611849199
Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussion about health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care worker. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice or other institution with which the authors are affiliated.
Sources and More Information:
- Abel E. and Kruger M. Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity, Psychological Science, 2010(21) 542–544.
- Lane R.D. & Nadel L. (Eds.), Cognitive Neuroscience of Emotion (pp. 345–370). New York: Oxford University Press.21, (2010) 542–544.
- Lane R.D. & Nadel L. (Eds.), Neural Correlates of Conscious Emotional Experience. (2000.) 345–370. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Seaward BL. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett; 2009:258.
- Sel, A., Calvo-Merino, B., Tuettenberg, S., & Forster, B. When you smile, the world smiles at you: ERP evidence for self-expression effects on face processing. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2015. 10(10), 1316–1322.
- Sonnby–Borgström, M. (2002), Automatic mimicry reactions as related to differences in emotional empathy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43: 433–443.