It’s true. Smiling is one of the most contagious physical acts that one can perform.
It hits you when a smile is thrown your way from a perfect stranger.
You know it. Heck, you feel it right down to that warm fuzzy squishy space in your middle…right above your navel. The feeling travels to your heart is or should be, unless you’re the Grinch.
If your heart is unused to such warm and fuzzy feelings then it feels slightly tight in your sternum. Even though your heart may be unused to the feeling your face knows what to do. It responds to their face.
The 10 facial muscles that control your smile begin to twitch and contract. Before you know it you are smiling. the corners of your lips are turned up, the corners of your eyes are wrinkling, and your teeth are showing their pearly luster.
How did that person do that? Is it magic? No. It’s your brain. It’s hardwired to mimic and respond to positive (safe) physical cues. Thank you mirror neurons.
When we smile our brains begin to perform feats worthy of Cirque du Soleil. Let’s geek out for a moment. When we smile our brains:
- Release dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin (Thank you positive hormones. I bow to you and the pharmaceutical companies rue your natural production.)
Your smile attracts others to you. Our brains look at a smile, a real smile, as an indication that all is safe. That big beautiful gray blob will activate the hippocampus and the left frontal region.
The hippocampus takes emotion and stores it as long term memory. When you see someone smile you store that memory in the hippocampus, and the hippocampus says, “Hey, that person made me feel good. So, whenever I see them I will remember them fondly and be attracted to them.”
Bam, instant connection.
When you smile you are ALSO changing your brain and creating a new mindset that approaches new opportunities/challenges with optimism. To geek out with the lingo, you’re increasing your brain’s plasticity.
It’s not only you that you affect with this smile. You change the environment around you when you smile.
You can begin the spread of this contagious good will and feeling. It all starts with a smile.
When you throw one of those puppies at another person they can’t help but react, thank you mirror neurons. Make it count. Make it real.
When you smile you not only affect the moment but the effects are long ranging for you and those that you smile with.
Start spreading it now. Smile at someone as you walk down the street. Smile at the checkout lady. Put your heart into it and see who smiles back. You’ll be surprised.
Rossouw, Peter. (2013). The Neuroscience of Smiling and Laughter. Applied NPT. Retrieved from http://www.neuropsychotherapist.com/the-neuroscience-of-smiling-and-laughter/
Stevenson, Sarah. (2012). There’s Magic In Your Smile: How Smiling Affects Your Brain. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201206/there-s-magic-in-your-smile