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Smile for a Better Brain…Even if You Fake It!

Smile! No, you’re not on “Candid Camera,” but flashing those pearly whites may still improve your day. Research shows that smiling (even if forced) can affect your brain, lift your mood and generally improve your outlook. Now, that’s something to grin about.

The Perks of Smiling

Cracking a smile sends a jolt of the neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphin’s and serotonin to your brain. Those are the chemicals that flood your body when you laugh or accomplish something big — basically, they’re the happy chemicals, and they reduce stress, too. Furthermore, some experts believe that smiling is a little like exercising; the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the more primed your brain and facial muscles are to smile again!

This small movement can make a big impact on other people’s perceptions of you, too. People are wired to mimic other people’s smiles, so when you grin at someone else, he will want to mirror that back to you, making you both feel great.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

The best thing about these benefits? They’re not limited to people who truly feel happy. They’re triggered by the physical act of smiling, so you can give yourself those perks even if you’re feeling crummy.

But, a tight-lipped twitch of the lips may not get the job done, so think of something really happy or funny until you can form an eye-twinkling grin. Research suggests that some benefits depend not just on if you smile, but also how you smile.

A small study in 2001 followed a group of women for decades and found that the women who had the biggest, happiest smiles in their college yearbook photos had happier marriages than the women who displayed unnatural smiles or sober expressions. And, in 2010, researchers looked at old baseball card photos of 230 Major League Baseball players and those players’ lifespans. They found that the players who had wide, sincere smiles lived an average of seven years longer than the players who didn’t smile at all.

No, grinning widely isn’t enough to improve your marriage or extend your life; it stands to reason that some of those outcomes were tied to the research subjects’ overall happiness and health, which showed through in their faces. But, if smiling can have any positive impact on your life and costs you nothing, isn’t it worth a try?

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