One of the things I like to do when I’m out and about is smile at strangers, particularly people who look sad or are frowning.
“Why?” I hear you ask.
I smile to lift the person’s mood. The fact is, smiling actually makes us feel better.
It’s been associated with reduced stress hormone levels (like cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine), increased health and mood enhancing hormone levels (like endorphins), and lowered blood pressure.
When we smile we stimulate our brain’s reward mechanisms. British researchers found that one smile can provide the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 chocolate bars!
And psychologist Dr David Lewis, the author of The Secret Language of Success says, “The powerful emotions triggered when someone important in our lives smiles at us and we smile back changes our brain chemistry.”
Being around happy smiling people can also lift our mood, because evolution has ensured that smiling is contagious. It’s very difficult to frown when you are looking at someone who is smiling. Two studies from 2002 and 2011 at Uppsala University in Sweden found that other people’s smiles actually suppress the control we usually have over our facial muscles, compelling us to smile.
We start smiling early – very early – research has discovered that we’re actually born smiling. Using 3D ultrasound technology, we can now see that developing babies appear to smile, even in the womb. And when they’re born, babies continue to smile — initially, mostly in their sleep. As we go through life we continue to smile, using our smiles to express joy and satisfaction.
How much smiling do we actually do each day?
In his popular 2011 TED talk ‘The Hidden Power of Smiling’ Ron Gutman, CEO of HealthTap, provided some statistics about smiling: children smile as many as 400 times per day whereas more than a third of adults smile more than 20 times per day, and less than 14% smile less than five times per day.
Smiling is a way of tricking your brain into thinking everything’s OK, even if it’s not. So even if we’re feeling down in the dumps a smile can really lift our mood. And it doesn’t even have to be a real smile – a fake smile works just as well.
The reason faking a smile works to lift our mood is explained by something psychologists call the facial feedback hypothesis. The hypothesis simply states that facial movements can have an effect on our emotional experience. So that even if you’re doing something you’d rather not being doing, you can still have an effect on how you feel about it, based on the facial expressions, such as a smile, you make during the not so fun activity.
And if you’re finding it a real struggle to fake a smile, research suggests that simply putting chopsticks or a pencil in your teeth and biting down lightly to force the corners of your mouth up into a smile is effective. The feedback this forced smile provides to your neurology, starts to shift your mood in the right direction.
So this week I’m laying down a challenge for you – smile more! Make a real effort to avoid going about your daily activities with a worried or angry look on your face. Smile instead; and if you don’t feel like smiling, fake it, you’ll not only feel better but you’ll make others feel better too.
If you would like help to explore how coaching can help you feel better, overcome problems or achieve your goals more easily and quickly, call me on 021 056 8389, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Book Now button.
REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).