The Science Behind Smiling and Your Mood

science behind your smile and mood


Smiling Improves Positive Emotional State

In Western culture, where emotional openness and communicating feelings are valued, science has revealed that smiling actually heightens one’s positive emotional state. The key is the feedback that smiling gives our brain: When the muscles in our faces receive our brain’s signal to contract into a smile, the smile provides feedback to the brain, which reinforces the feeling of happiness. In cultures where smiling is encouraged, smiling also enhances the mood of those around you as well.


Smiling Reduces Stress

The benefits of smiling don’t stop there. Smiling can reduce your body’s level of stress hormones at a rate similar to getting a good night’s sleep. And since stress directly impacts longevity, it’s no surprise that studies have proven that people who smile the most tended to lead happier lives and live an average of seven years longer than those who smiled the least.


Smiling Train Brain to Perceive Happiness

Smiling can also train your brain to perceive happiness, since the brain remembers how often you’ve smiled in the past and what your emotional state was when you smiled. By smiling more often, you can train your brain to induce feelings of happiness.


As children, we smile an average of four hundred times a day, while adults average only 20 times a day (and frequent smilers 40 times a day). That’s one reason that people enjoy being around children: the children’s smiles and laughter are contagious, and boost the mood of all present.

If you’re not a frequent smiler but want to reap the health benefits, there’s hope: even when you fake or force a smile, you reduce your stress levels and feel happier. In a study conducted by Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman, participants were asked to affect one of three expressions while performing stressful multitasking: neutral, half/mouth-only smile or genuine ear-to-ear smile.  Participants who affected a genuine smile experienced lower heart rate levels and less stress after the activities and even those who half-smiled felt more content and less stressed than those with a neutral expression.

So while a half-smile may be deemed fake in social situations, putting on the same “fake” smile when stressed or otherwise feeling less than happy can have positive benefits. Faking a smile has even been shown to help people who are dealing with major depression.


Since Western cultures perceive smiling as projecting a friendly, likeable demeanour, learning to smile more can prove socially rewarding. But whether you intend to smile more in social settings or just want to manage your stress levels, practising how to produce a warm, genuine smile results in tangible benefits.



Here are three tips for cultivating a beautiful smile:

  1. Visualise a happy situation, be it someone or something you deeply love or an event that was deeply satisfying. This exercise is particularly helpful when practised before conversing with someone on the phone or in person; the contentment or joy that you produced during the visualisation is palpable by the other person.
  2. Practise smiling in front of a mirror. (Yes, really!) Remember that a genuine smile includes the eyes; you’ll know that you’ve got it right when you feel happy and relaxed.
  3. View smiling a lot not as a sign of weakness but of feeling confident and at ease with yourself. Men in particular have, in the past, been raised to view smiling as a weakness, since it was, in certain circles, more socially acceptable for women to smile than men. Regardless of your gender, changing this mindset will help you become less resistant to smiling and more comfortable with engaging in the behaviour.


Be warned though: Smiling is addictive and infectious. And once you get into the habit of having a great smile, you (and those around you) won’t want to stop.

The content is provided by Parramatta Dental Avenue. Parramatta Dental Avenue is a well-known dental clinic in Parramatta, Sydney.

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