Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How does smiling make you happier?

When someone smiles it shows that they are happy - but did you know that smiling also causes happiness? 

 In 1989, a psychologist named Robert Zajonc published one of the most significant studies on the emotional effect of producing a smile. His subjects repeated vowel sounds that forced their faces into various expressions. To mimic some of the characteristics of a smile, they made the long "e" sound, which stretches the corners of the mouth outward. Other vowel sounds were also tested, including the long "u," which forces the mouth into a pouty expression. Subjects reported feeling good after making the long "e" sound, and feeling bad after the long "u."
In yet another experiment, one group of subjects was shown pictures of various facial expressions; another group made those facial expressions and a final group made those expressions while looking in the mirror. The evidence all points toward smiling as a cause of happy feelings. According to Dr Zajonc's  hypothesis, the facial changes involved in smiling have direct effects on certain brain activities associated with happiness.

You also catch smiles too as you have brain cells called mirror neurons that fire not only when you smile but also when you watch someone else smile too. Before the discovery of mirror neurons, scientists generally believed that our brains use logical thought processes to interpret and predict other people’s actions. Now, however, many have come to believe that we understand others not by thinking, but by feeling. For mirror neurons appear to let us “simulate” not just other people’s actions, but the intentions and emotions behind those actions. When you see someone smile, for example, your mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, creating a sensation in your own mind of the feeling associated with smiling. You don’t have to think about what the other person intends by smiling. You experience the meaning immediately and effortlessly, giving you a boost.  This explains why we feel good being in the compnay of positive and upbeat people and also why we can feel drained and exhausted by dour and miserable folks.

I had a conversation with someone recently about the lack of smiles around.  I know that life can be tough, you can have worries and troubles and smiling may be the last thing on your mind. But just think - if you smile or spend time with someone who is happy it lifts your mood.  When you feel happier you see your problems from a different perspective, you may just see a solution or have an idea that your brain was closed to before. This is why I am a big fan of creating more smiles and happiness - it improves your life, it helps you cope and you can then pass your smile on to others.

But does this mean that you should just put a smile on your face and it will all be ok?  No I don't think so but it is a good place to start. When you choose to focus on smiling more then you let go of the negative thoughts that may be overwhelming you even for a minute. This can give your brain a wee breather - a bit of space to relax and start you on a different route.  After all if you keep doing the same things then you will get the same results.  Start with a smile - it's free. :-)

other happy woman

Want to add more happiness to your life join the Happiness Club - my monthly club is about increasing the positive happy times and finding ways to handle the bad stuff.

Celebrate the happy, smiley people in your life with The Smile Awards

Have you nominated someone for a Smile Award yet?  Nominate someone who lights up your life with a cheery grin, a hearty laugh or their positive attitude. Tell us about the people who help make you smile. It could be a happy postie, a helpful shop assistant or a cheery refuse collector, a neighbour or friend who brightens your day with their positive attitude or who has helped you through a difficult time. Tell us about the person who lifts your spirits and why they should win a Smile Award.
All nominees will feature on the Smilers page of Scotland's Happiness Day website and if you wish may be featured in a Johnston Press local newspaper.  A winner will be chosen for each of our 11 regions. The regional winners of the Smile Awards will be invited guests at the Happiness conference in Glasgow on 2nd November, treated to a VIP lunch and presented with a Smile Award medal.  The national Smile Award winner will be chosen on the day and presented with a trophy.