A smile and a laugh are an infectious pair that can spread quickly. Smiling can serve to make people feel more comfortable while improving your mood and that of those around you. Laughing can reduce stress levels and offer many other health benefits.
Studies on the power of a smile have shown that smiling has a positive, stress-reducing effect on the body. A study in Psychology Today found that smiling contributes to stress reduction in a handful of ways, including calming one’s heart rate and stimulating a faster recovery from stressful events. Smiling is an act that releases neuropeptides, molecules which allow neurons to communicate with each other through specific signals. Various feel-good neuropeptides are released when someone smiles, including dopamine and serotonin. The release of these neuropeptides both reduces your blood pressure and calms down your body. In fact, serotonin is known to serve as an anti-depressant. It can be difficult to smile in times of stress or fear, but taking five minutes to do so might calm you down a little bit and decrease your stress.
Smiling not only soothes your own soul, but also that of others. The part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression is known as the cingulate cortex, an area triggered by automatic responses. If you smile at someone, they will most likely be inclined to smile back. Smiling may seem like such a small deed, but in reality can form a small, completely beneficial, relationship between people who have never met.
“Laughter is the best medicine” is such a common saying that most people have heard it many times in their lifetime. As it turns out, there is a rationale behind this saying. In a similar manner to smiling, laughing can release many mood-boosting and stress-killing chemicals inside the brain. Laughing releases endorphin, a natural opiate which promotes feelings of caring, forgiveness, attachment, optimism, and self-confidence. Laughing also improves circulation throughout the body and contributes to muscle relaxation, both of which are excellent ways to reduce feelings of anxiety. Laughter is also incredibly contagious—just take a look at this video!