The odds are you have never heard the name Harvey Ball. However, the odds are also that you use his creation daily. Ball is the credited designer of the smiley face, the wildly recognized symbol of goodwill and cheer. As the founder of The World Smile Foundation, he declared the first Friday of each October to be World Smile Day. The intention of the day is, “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile”! It is obvious that smiling makes you feel better, but why? What happens in your brain and body? Showing those pearly whites activities the release of chemical signals in the brain, called neuropeptides, such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These are the feel good neurotransmitters and together they change your mood, relax your body, and reduce pain. Different neuropeptides are involved in a wide range of brain functions, including analgesia, reward, food intake, metabolism, reproduction, social behaviors, learning, and memory. They fight off stress, which can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Chemical releases brought on by your smile also serve as anti-depressants. Smiling is a natural drug with only amazingly beneficial side effects. Along with the value provided to your mental and biological well-being, smiling positively contributes to your physical appearance. Clearly, it’s more pleasing to look at someone smiling rather than frowning. Aside from that, the muscles used to smile lift the face, making one appear younger. There is no need for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day. You will look younger and feel better. Aside from the gains for yourself, smiling affects those around you. Did you know your smile is contagious? The part of the brain that is responsible for the expression of smiling when happy or mimicking another’s smile resides in the cingulate cortex, which is an unconscious automatic response area. In a Swedish study, subjects were shown pictures of the emotions joy, fear, anger, and surprise. When presented with a picture of someone smiling, the participants were asked to frown. It took conscious effort to turn the smile upside down because they found that the facial expressions went directly to imitation of what the subjects were seeing. Every time you smile at others, their brains coax them to return the gesture. So, if you’re smiling at someone, it’s likely he cannot help but return the smile. Smile to improve your health, your stress level, your attractiveness. Smile to change your internal and external experiences. Smile to make others smile. Do an act of kindness to provoke others to smile and allow them to experience the same benefits you are enjoying.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh