Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 02:03
It’s easy in our busy lives to become mentally frenzied by our daily obligations. Stressors, such as financial pressures, schoolwork and job demands can encourage some to feel overwhelmingly negative about themselves and their situation. This burrowed pessimism can quickly manifest an unenthusiastic demeanor and unapproachable body language. While this negativity plagues us all from time to time, the best thing you can do when life is stressful is smile.
Conjuring a fabricated grin can trick the brain, even if at the time you are paralyzed by stress. Regardless of if a smile is actually intentional, smiling causes a release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.
According to Psychology Today columnist Dr. Gary Wenk, the human face is constructed with various fragile bones surrounding the sinuses. The muscles attached to these bones contract when one is happy or about to laugh. The slight distortion in these thin facial bones leads to increased blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, which is considered to be the seat of positive emotions in the brain. Although it may seem contradictory, faking a smile will increase the release of dopamine into the brain, producing feelings of euphoria and happiness.
As American citizens, we are coexisting in an abundance of languages, cultures, practices and other diversities that make us differ individually. Smiling is a universal language which allows us to transcend cultural and conceptual boundaries. No matter what age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, faith, nationality or culture you may claim, a smile means the same thing. BBC estimated there are up to 7,000 different spoken languages around the world. Smiling is present in every single one.
A smile is cost-free, easily portable and highly contagious. The part of your brain responsible for the smiling facial expression is the cingulate cortex, an automatic and unconscious response area. Every time you smile at someone else, their brain coaxes them to return the favor creating a symbiotic relationship that consents both parties to dopamine inebriation.
Smiling makes you appear approachable, friendly and nonthreatening, even toward people you have never met or hardly know. According to a study done by researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, when a person expresses happiness, a friend living close by has a 25 percent higher chance of reiterating cheerfulness. For a spouse, an 8 percent chance and for a next-door neighbor there’s a 34 percent chance. At these rates, what is the harm in spreading the love?
Furthermore, smiling invites you to feel and appear more attractive to others. We are subliminally drawn to people who smile, as it is an unavoidable attraction factor. When people scowl and frown, those emotions have the capability to inflict stress on others, which could destroy their mood. According to Mary Marcdante and her “21-Day Smile Diet,” a smile can be recognized from 300 feet away, making it the easiest of all the human emotions to recognize.
Smiling can also ease the tension of disagreement. By no means will a simple facial expression make said discrepancies magically disappear, but encouraging dopamine flow in the brain may result in more open-minded thinking that is less emotionally influenced and pride driven. It creates a supportive, positive, nurturing environment. Perhaps if powerful world leaders, diplomats, consultants and ambassadors were reminded of this effortless act, conflict would be eased in times of crisis and disagreement.
The element of smiling and positive thoughts is something that should be further emphasized as we progress through the education system. As we age and mature, we become faced with more stress in our daily lives. If we can combat the ridiculous and never-ending strain life causes our minds, bodies and overall spirits with the simple act of smiling, shouldn’t we be reminded of this fact? To me, it seems a tremendous majority of people default to frowning or blank facial expressions as they go about their daily lives. Has humanity collectively forgotten how to smile?
The energy of a smile is greatly underestimated: It is capable of sending ripples of good vibrations across the world.
Kyle Hart is a senior in psychology. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Hart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.