The Science Behind Smiling: Why It Works and How You Can Do It, Too

The Science Behind Smiling: Why It Works and How You Can Do It, Too

Smiling is our face’s natural reaction to something that brings us joy or amusement. When we smile, it usually means that we find something nice, funny, or just altogether pleasing and lovable. It turns out, smiling even when we don’t feel as happy does have some effect on our emotions and our perception of things.

There are countless songs, stories, and other media that tell us to smile even when we’re in pain; that a single smile could somehow uplift our spirits and have us feeling better in no time. Until now, that all seemed like a lie made up by artists to sell songs. But how is this possible through science?

The science behind smiling

Fake it till you make it — an eternally relevant adage that never seems to go out of style or use. And for good reason. As it turns out, studies have shown that looking and acting happier or more confident than we really feel actually helps to trick our brains into believing that it’s true. Sure, you might not feel like your work is all that important when you’re all bunched up and slouched against your seat, but if you straighten your back just a little bit and stop frowning and moping, you might actually start to feel like you’re making some difference.

Our body language and facial expressions often give away what we really think. They reflect our innermost thoughts and feelings back out towards the world almost as its own form of universal communication. It turns out, when we reverse that and reflect a different appearance than what we really feel, we can not only trick others into believing it but ourselves too.

Making just a few adjustments to your posture or your facial expression releases chemicals in your brain that then spread to your body. In the same way, these brain chemicals can affect how we carry ourselves, like when our shoulders slump or slouch when we feel sad or tense up when we feel fear, so too can a change in body language trick the brain into releasing chemicals that make us feel the way we look.

“Fake it till you make it” is no longer just a simple principle but a method towards actual happiness and productivity. So, smiling does make a difference, even if it makes you look crazy. But the question now is, how do you apply that?

Help it along with some positivity

Smiling just takes you part of the way. You can smile all you want but if you’re still thinking negative thoughts underneath, it’ll show in other places, like your eyes, your posture, even the way you smile which could just as easily turn into a grimace of pain instead. Help your brain to get into the right mood by heaping a load of positive thoughts onto it as well. You can write that e-mail. You can get through this day. You can answer the phone on the first ring.

Positive thinking can do a lot to improve our mood and make us feel less hopeless and despondent than before. Always remember the fake it till you make it principle. You might not be feeling very positive straight away, but give it time and you’ll start to turn it into a hobby. If it’s hard to remain positive about a present situation, try looking ahead to the future. If you finish one more e-mail, you can take a nap. If you just get all of your tasks done, you’ll be able to watch that new show you’ve been excited to see. Finding even just one positive thing about a bad situation can help a lot.

Make yourself look good

Telling yourself that you look good when you don’t feel like you do is effective, but what’s even more effective is enacting that change physically. Of course, you don’t feel like you look good when you’re dressed sloppily or messily. You’re not in your best state. Dress prettily to match that pretty smile and guaranteed, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself afterward. Looking good, even if it’s just for yourself, can do wonders to your mood. Other than dressing up, you can try putting on makeup, styling your hair, or trying something new about your appearance.

Smiling is great but so is looking good. And if it’s your smile that you’re self-conscious of, some good braces or retainers from a trusted orthodontic lab can fix your problem.

The way we present ourselves directly reflects our inner thoughts and emotions and vice versa. If we don’t feel good, we frown. If we feel sad or overwhelmed, we cry. Whatever we feel, we always somehow show. It’s as simple as that. Following that same principle, if we train our body to look and act a certain way, then chances are we can make ourselves feel better as well. So try it right now — smile! It can be the very thing that gets you through the day.