They are, and it is scientifically proven that smiles are contagious! Humans are hardwired to mimic the expressions of others. So if you see a smile, then you tend to smile also. But more than that, smiling has the power to change the mood for you and others around you. Take a moment and think. What do we do when we see a person we like, a baby laughing or a cute animal? We smile, and the people we smile at tend to smile back. Well, at least most of the time. Smiles are the foundation of how human beings interact, whether for a job interview, on a date, or friends and family photos. It’s how we show ourselves to the world. Smiling is the most recognized human expression and can be perceived from more than 300 feet away.
Why are smiles contagious?
According to various studies, smiling is considered contagious. Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides, neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, which decrease stress levels, relax the body, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and serve as an antidepressant/mood lifter.
There is growing evidence showing that mimicking someone else’s facial expressions is a natural human instinct that allows us to empathize with the feelings of others. For example, if a friend looks sad or angry or tired, you tend to mirror their facial expression in order to better recognize or understand their feelings without even knowing you did. Likewise, a smile can have the same effect.
3 reasons why smiles are contagious
- Its natural
- It meets no boundaries
How does a smile affect others?
- Smiling makes you attractive (so show those pearly whites!)
- Smiling helps you stay positive
- Smiling suggests success (“Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important,” ~ Anonymous)
Other than it being contagious, what are the other positive facts about smiling? First, research shows that there is a positive link between smiling and good health. As humans, we are naturally attracted to people who smile and tend to use that, to draw people to us. Smiling can work as a natural antidepressant, and the act of smiling activates neural messaging in our brains. In addition, the act of smiling tends to boost your health because it kick-starts your immune system to function more effectively and then makes you more relaxed by releasing neurotransmitters. Smiling at another person can make that person feel rewarded. It can also create happiness and calmness.
Another feeling triggered by a smile is a sense of feeling fulfilled and content. This feeling then generates other positive sensations, which in turn produces many positive effects on our minds and bodies. Let’s look at those positive effects.
Smiling helps our bodies release cortisol and endorphins, which provide numerous health benefits, including reducing blood pressure. In addition, increased endurance reduces pain, reduces stress, and can strengthen our immune system.
Research also says that smiling can help prevent wrinkles by training the muscles around the lips, mouth, and cheek areas to avoid sagging prematurely.
Can we also cheer someone else up by smiling?
Mark Twain said, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”
So, if you can make someone smile today, do it. One smile can make the whole day for that person you smiled at. Even if the smile is forced, it prompts the brain to produce endorphins and serotonin, causing positive emotions.
So why do we smile?
Smiles are generally taken as signs of contentment. However, humans smile for many different reasons. We sometimes smile simply because we are happy, but there are many social reasons for our smiles.
We do it to put people at ease and show more complex emotions, such as resignation. It can also “trick” your brain into thinking you’re happy and increases the dopamine, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology,
There are other positive effects tied to our smiles. First, smiling more often helps the mind and body release stress naturally since stress and anxiety can be ongoing challenges. Second, smiling helps reduce stress-induced hormones in the bloodstream, which helps avoid adrenal fatigue.
Finally, smiling enhances positive emotions tied to our smiles.
So if our brains feel happy, it produces endorphins, and neuronal signals are then transmitted to your facial muscles, which trigger a smile. Using MRIs, researchers found that most people who are looking at an attractive face activate the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that helps process sensory rewards, like taste and touch. Interestingly, when participants saw the same face with a smile, that brain activity increased.
When you see a genuine smile, it seems that the smile reaches their eyes. It really does catch the eye, which causes crinkles to the skin around your eyes to create crow’s feet. But people often smile to cover feelings or what they are really thinking, so the next time you want to know if someone’s smile is genuine, look for crinkles at the corners of their eyes. If those crinkles aren’t there, then that smile is hiding something.
A study at Scotland University found that those who smiled and made eye contact with people were consistently rated higher on the attractiveness scale than those who didn’t.
We’ve all heard that smiling is contagious, but is that just an old cliché, or is it true? The part of your brain that aids in smiling when happy or mimicking someone’s smile resides in an unconscious automatic response area. In other words, smiling truly is contagious. When someone smiles at you, you are behaviorally and psychologically conditioned to return the favor. Or, when you’re feeling happy, you have to make a conscious effort to suppress the smile that unconsciously wants to spread across your face. And when smiling boosts your mood, it makes you more attractive and can quickly spread to others, then why would you want to?
Science says that your orbit-frontal cortex activates when seeing a smile, which processes sensory rewards. So, when you see another person smiling, you can feel rewarded, which is a good feeling, causing a smile! Viola! Contagious!
Did you know that there is a “World Smile Day”? It is the first Friday in October each year. This unofficial holiday encourages people to do acts of kindness to spread goodwill and cheer.