I have been known as a "smiler " my entire life, and my own children
tell me on occasion to "reign it in MOM" when we are taking photos
because I can quickly look like the cat who is holding the canary in its mouth....
but did you know there is actual neuroSCIENCE behind a SMILE.
A 1989 groundbreaking study by Dr. Robert Zajonc, on the emotional effects of a SMILE, revealed that even a "fake" smile (one you purposely create) has a direct effect on chemical signals in the brain. The facial muscles used to create a SMILE... change the blood flow to the carotid artery which is the main artery supplying oxygenated blood to the brain. In Dr. Zajonc's study, participants were asked to produce "fake" smiles by making the vowel sound of a Long E, as well as by placing a pencil horizontally in their mouths while clamping down on it with their teeth..... AND.... regardless of whether the smile was "fake" or "real", the same endorphins, (better known as the brain's "feel good" chemicals) were released.
So... what does that mean for the average person
who is NOT walking around being a part of some scientific study...
It means you need to SMILE MORE!
The next time you're having a bad day, something in life is stressing you out, you're having anxiety, feeling sick, or just in a down right grumpy mood... stop and force yourself to smile! I know that sounds crazy, but there are mounds and mounds of evidence showing scientific provable data that your brain is releasing chemicals into your body because of the facial muscles used when you smile. Those muscles are creating a firing of neurotransmitters in your brain that cause the chemical components of happiness.
image by hfboards.mandatory.com
Edinburgh, Scotland.... known to have some of the most unhappy people
across the globe (based on world happiness reports) used this "fake" smile research
to see if it might work with average people on the street.
Watch this 2 minutes video to SEE WHAT HAPPENED!
Of course... I tried this myself,
and was in my office laughing as I felt myself "fake" smile
(feeling the shift from the forced to the genuine smile)
WOW.... our brains KNOW what smiling means,
and it knows what chemicals to release when we do!
Harvard Psychology professor, Dr. Daniel Gilbert, who has conducted happiness research for over 2 decades, says.... in his best selling book Stumbling on Happiness- that even synthetic happiness (or "fake" smiles) are REAL to the brain.... they just happen to be man-made rather than spontaneous. Our emotional state can actually be altered by facial muscle activity. The smiling muscles in the face, particularly the zygomaticus major muscles, stimulate the reward system within our brains. This reward center is responsible for some of the same endorphin releases as chocolate or sex.
images by krystalgabriel.com , dailymail.com , and weirdmasalaa.blogspot.com
In the images above, one can FEEL the experience of what is known in Neuroscience as Mirror Neurons. This is a new field of research that studies neurons firing both during the act as well as the observation. SMILING is one of the few emotions that can create a SMILE on the face of both the observer as well as the performer. Stop for a moment and remember how you felt when you first looked at your baby smile and how almost instantly a SMILE would creep upon your face as well. THESE are mirror neurons in action.
image by parents.com
World expert, and leading pioneer on HAPPINESS, Dr. Ed Dinner,
says that the frequency of our positive experiences is a much better predictor of our genuine happiness than the intensity of the experience.
But... we all know this is true.... think about the fleeting GREAT JOY you felt
after you got your new car, met the man of your dreams,
or bought that perfect outfit..... but as we all know...
that car soon has old French fries in the back seat,
the man you thought hung the moon leaves the toilet seat up,
and that outfit has now been worn 3 times....
and the MOMENT of joy is no longer present.....
This is where the Science of Gratitude fits in....
and I can tell you from personal experience
that it has forever changed the frequency of my SMILES....
I practice GRATITUDE continually throughout every day.
Each time I see something (which I am now on the constant lookout for)
I stop and FEEL that moment of JOY and say a huge thank you to GOD
for allowing me to witness this experience.
Without even realizing it.... A SMILE comes across my face, endorphins are released, and suddenly.... I FEEL Happier!
Start today.... look around and SMILE at all you have to be grateful for.... even if you have to put a pencil in your mouth... the experience will change your life. so..... SMILE!
Staci is a one-of-a-kind mix of JOY and Neuroscience who is teaching people all over the world to BUILD a BETTER BRAIN by using Gratitude to create a BRIGHTER future. She has a Master's Degree in Educational NEUROSCIENCE and 25 years of teaching experience where she developed a reputation for being able to uncover potential in others like no one else could. Let her teach you how to live a HAPPIER Life by using the neuroscience of GRATITUDE to rewire your brain and build a better future!