BRAIN HEALTH | 4.27.2015 | BY DAYA ALEXANDER GRANT, M.S.
How many times have you smiled today? If you’re an average adult, you’ll smile 20 times today. If you’re a really happy adult, you’ll smile 40-50 times today. That sounds decent, until you compare it to the number of smiles a child expresses each day: 400!
Why do we smile and how does it affect our brain? Here’s the sequence of events:
- You feel happy!
- Your brain sends a signal to cranial nerve VII, which then triggers the face’s zygomaticus major muscle (the one responsible for lifting the corners of your mouth) and the obicularis occuli muscle (the one around your eyes.)
- You smile.
- A positive feedback loop is initiated and a signal is sent back to your brain, releasing dopamine and serotonin, and reinforces positive emotions.
Other benefits of smiling:
- It lowers the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline
- It boosts the immune system by increasing gamma interferon (a protein that fights viruses), B-cells and T-cells (the white blood cells needed to create antibodies)
What about fake smiles? It turns out that fake/”social” smiling enough can actually bias your brain to thinking you are genuinely happy due to the positive feedback loop.
Fun fact: A single smile can stimulate neurotransmitters as much as 2000 bars of chocolate, but without the sugar crash and stomach ache!
When you next pass someone on the street, flash your pearly whites. You’ll make them feel good and cheer yourself up as well.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy” -Thich Nhat Hanh