Mindful Owl Journal

Why Smiling is the Next Best Medicine


Of course we’ve heard it a number of times before: laughter is the best medicine. Kids from the 70’s up to the 80’s know that this popular magazine, Reader’s Digest, has dedicated a special section for this potent antidote to gloom and doom.

Well, for sure one cannot downplay the importance of smiling either. Even Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese peace activist and Buddhist monk, says, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” 

Here’s a super-short crash course on the science of smiling:

How Smiling Benefits The Body

Smiling makes you look attractive. And I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced this that a smile draws people in. Consider its opposite expressions: frown, anger, scowl…these easily push others away. People respond to you differently when you smile. They will view you as sincere, reliable, relaxed, and well… attractive.

A research published in Neuropsychologia Journal* revealed that seeing a smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex (the region in the brain where sensory rewards originate). This means that when you see a person smiling at you, you feel rewarded! The same study also explains the 2011 data from the Face Research Lab researchers at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) where subjects were asked to rate attractiveness and smiling. Both men and women were more attracted to images of people who smiled and made eye contact than those who didn’t. Try smiling at people in the park when you have your morning walk and notice how many looks you’d get.

How Smiling Benefits The Brain

Your smile activates a little feel-good party in your brain. Each time you smile, neural messages that benefit your own health and happiness are triggered. 

It activates the release of neuropeptides which fight off stress. These tiny molecules, which allow neurons to communicate, promote messaging throughout the whole body when we’re excited, happy, angry, sad, or depressed. When your face breaks into a smile, “happy” hormones (endorphins, dopamine, serotonin) are released. This lowers your blood pressure and heart rate while relaxing the entire body.

Endorphins also act as pain relievers – 100% natural/organic, with zero potential negative side-effects.

Additionally, serotonin-release lifts the mood and works as an antidepressant. A number of synthetic/pharmaceutical antidepressants influence the level of the brain’s serotonin, yet a smile releases this hormone naturally. Then again, no negative side-effects; no need for your doctor’s prescription.

How Does Smiling Affect Those Around You

Well, smiling is a safe and healthy virus that’s highly contagious! 

In a Swedish research, subjects were shown pictures of various emotions: surprise, anger, joy, fear. When a smiling picture was shown, the researchers asked the subjects to frown. They found that it took the subject's conscious effort to turn their own smile upside-down. Smiling back (OR mimicking a smile) is an unconscious automatic response of the brain. So, if you’re smiling at somebody, it’s highly probable they can’t help but return the smile. If they don’t, they’re making a conscious effort not to smile back.**

In perspective, when you smile at someone, their brain prompts them to return that smile. Consequently, you’re creating a synergetic exchange which allows you both to release feel-good hormones, trigger reward feelings, and make you (and them) look more attractive.

In addition to all the benefits of smiling cited so far, a smile makes you look younger, helps you stay positive, helps you live longer, and makes you “look” successful/problem-free. Indeed, can you manage a smile while your mind is immersed in the gunk of problems? When you don’t think about your problems, you can easily smile. Inversely, when you smile (truly smile) it dispels negative thoughts and bad moods. A smile is almost like a switch that turns on the lights in your head which then floods your entire being with brightness.

Here’s also one simple tip to coax that smile from your loved ones. Give them one of our TOWL items: organic, chemical-free, eco-friendly bamboo towels which are guaranteed to protect your family from chemical-laden synthetic fibers. TOWL products will make them smile knowing that their skin is safe from toxins.

Now come to think of it, if smiling benefits the people around you, how much will it benefit the one inside your own skin? Start looking at the bright side and you’re sure to find a host of reasons to smile today. (Well actually, even if you fake a smile, it generates the same positive effects on your brain and body). 

So, whether it’s real or faked, who can question the magic of a smile?



*Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research Phil Trans R Soc B June 12, 2011 366: 1638-1659.

**Sonnby–Borgström, M. (2002), Automatic mimicry reactions as related to differences in emotional empathy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43: 433–443.

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