"Any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain." ― Santiago Ramon y Cajal, a Spanish Neuroscientist and Pathologist.
As it turns out, there is solid evidence that smiling can do us a world of good.
In a fascinating study at the University of Kansas, researchers had subjects use chopsticks to shape their mouths into smiles or frowns, and then induce a stressful situation. The results were surprising: those simulating smiles had lower heart rates and stress levels than those who frown. The University's lead researcher Dr. Sarah Pressman Ph.D., explains, ”It's not just that our brains are happy that makes us smile, it can also be the opposite -- we feel the smile and become happy.” Even if you're not happy, activating the muscles associated with smiling can fool your brain into thinking you are.
Smiling can boost your immunity too. Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist in Los Angeles points to the science of psychoneuroimmunology (the study of how the brain is connected to the immune system), asserting that depression weakens your immune system, while happiness, on the other hand, has been shown to boost our body's resistance. "What's crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity," says Dr. Grossan. "When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening."
It is about the chemistry behind it too. A smile can trigger the release of hormones, including dopamine and serotonin. This is according to Dr. Isha Gupta, a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine. "Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression," says Dr. Gupta. "Low levels of dopamine are also associated with depression." In other words, smiling can trick your brain into believing you're happy, which can then spur actual feelings of happiness.
Make your smile go viral. Much like yawning, smiling is contagious.
"This is because we have mirror neurons that fire when we see action," says Dr. Eva Ritzo, a psychiatrist and the co-author of "The Beauty Prescription: The Complete Formula for Looking and Feeling Beautiful." As its name suggests, mirror neurons enable us to copy or reflect the behavior we observe in others and have been linked to the capacity for empathy.
"Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful." – Thich Nhat Hanh
"Your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you." – Les Brown
"A smile puts you on the right track. A smile makes the world a beautiful place. When you lose your smile, you lose your way in the chaos of life." – Roy T. Bennett
For better brain health, remember to smile even if you don't feel like it.
Fred Tokè aka Dr. Tokèmon