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Why smiling makes you happy: the science of smiling

By Anthony October 22, 2015

Smiling is a universal gesture. No matter where you are in the world or the language you speak, the act of smiling crosses cultural barriers. In fact, it’s one of the most instantly recognised and understood tools of communication we know.

Like laughing, smiles are a contagious thing. We feel good when we smile (that's why we're doing it, obviously). But did you know that the very act of smiling makes you happy? Or that seeing other people smile has a similar effect on our brains? Let's look at why that happens, and reveal the science of smiling.


Smiling makes you happy - gorgeous grins all round!

It seems intuitive enough; we’re drawn to people who smile because they seem friendlier, more approachable, and kinder than those who frown. But there’s more too it than that. Studies have shown that we actually view people who smile as more physically attractive — giving those who invest in perfect teeth plenty to grin about.

It’s believed that we’re hard-wired to surround ourselves with those who smile, because it’s a genetic signal of good health and confidence ― and possibly of someone we’d choose as a mate. There's even been research to suggest that, when males look at a woman, they see happiness as the most important quality in gauging their attractiveness. Meaning that a simple smile may just be more important than all your makeup, hair products or very best cocktail dresses combined.

Funnily, the same study found that women perceived happy men as less attractive, but were drawn to those with a strong sense of confidence and pride (which is often associated with smiling anyway).


power of smiling girl in denim.jpg


Our health and the importance of being happy

When you smile, the brain releases chemicals into the body such as dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. When these substances are activated, our stress levels begin to drop, our heart rate decreases and blood pressure lowers. At the same time, we experience a feel-good rush — much like the feeling we get when we eat chocolate (which, incidentally, contains the same happy chemicals our bodies naturally produce).

The endorphins that flush through our body when we smile can even block out pain (although whether you’d be smiling while in pain is unlikely, so perhaps scientists haven’t thought this through fully!).

In any case, smiling does more than supercharge happy chemicals and boost our mood. There's also extensive research to show that happiness levels affect our long term health — and the more we smile, the more often we can take advantage of that. For example, those who carry out their days with a positive, bubbly demeanour tend to suffer lower rates of heart disease, stress-related conditions (including autoimmune illnesses) and mental health issues. As a result, scientists believe that happy people tend to live longer than those who regularly feel depressed.


Why faking a smile can make you happier

It sounds strange, but you can still get those same benefits from smiling even if your grin isn't genuine. That’s because the chemical response is partly triggered by the physical act of smiling — so it doesn’t actually matter whether you fake it or not. Essentially, smiling makes you happy.

A positive feedback loop is created when you crack a smile; the movement of your facial muscles trick your brain into thinking you are happy, and as a result, happy chemicals flow through you. This makes you smile more, and in turn your body releases even more of those feel-good substances... and the cycle keeps going.

Not everyone is naturally ‘smiley’. Many people find that a major obstacle to smiling more often is the appearance of their teeth. If you feel self-conscious about crooked or overcrowded teeth or other issues with the alignment of your teeth, there’s a great deal we can do about it to change things. 

Modern orthodontic treatments are far more affordable, comfortable and discreet than they were in the past. If you’re ready to change the shape of your smile, boost your confidence and flash those pearlies in public, get in touch with Inner West Orthodontics. Start your journey today; it’s time to get grinning.

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