Smile more for stress relief, improved immunity and many other health benefits
How often do you find yourself smiling just by looking at someone laugh or smile in front of you? Yes, smiling is contagious. As the famous saying goes, smile and the world will smile with you.
But smiling not only enhances your attractiveness and improves your mood. It also provides various health benefits including stress relief and improved heart health. So if you didn't have a reason to smile already, here are some that are actually science-backed.
1. Smiling relieves stress
Two major muscles in the face help you smile: zygomaticus major and orbicularis oculi.
When there is a pleasant situation, like looking at a cute puppy, our brain produces endorphins and gives nerve signals to the facial muscles to trigger a smile. This initiates a loop of endorphin release in the body. Then the smiling muscles contract and send back a signal to the brain, switching on the reward system, which further increases the levels of endorphins in the body. These endorphins lower the stress levels and improve the mood.
Smiling also releases neuropeptides (tiny molecules in the brain) in the body which fight against stress.
2. Improves heart health
The release of endorphins through smiling increases blood flow. Smiling has been associated with an increased HDL (the good cholesterol) levels in the body. Smiling also lowers the stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, nor-epinephrine). Thus, smiling and laughing more can improve overall heart health.
3. Increases pain threshold
The endorphins released while smiling and laughing act as a natural pain reliever.
A research was carried out by the University of Oxford to find out if smiling and laughing generates a feeling of well-being in a person. The subjects were divided into two categories: one group was made to watch factual videos and the other group was made to watch funny videos and comic stage performances. The laughter of the participants was recorded with a microphone.
After certain physical tests on both the groups, researchers found that the ones who watched comic content had a significant increase in their pain threshold immediately after compared to before watching the videos. Their pain threshold was also higher than the group that watched factual videos.
4. Maintains your blood pressure
Neuropeptides are required by the nerve cells for communication. These neuropeptides are responsible for the release of the happy chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) of the brain like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. When you smile these neurotransmitters are released in the body which not only relaxes the body but also helps manage your heart rate and blood pressure.
5. Boosts your immune system
Smiling and laughing initiates the release of serotonin in the body which increases the sense of happiness and well-being in the body. Serotonin also helps boost the immune system as it stimulates monocytes and lymphocytes (types of white blood cells that fight against infection in the body) and also regulates the release of cytokines (chemical messenger of the immune system).
6. Smiling is contagious
According to a study published in the journal Neuropsychologia, seeing a smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex of the brain which is responsible for the sensory rewards. This cortex makes you smile and thus releases endorphins as a reward. Thus, this smile circle continues. Your smile might be making someone else happy and healthy - isn't that enough of a reason to do it more often? The world could do with an extra dose of positivity right now.
For more on this topic, please read our article on Stress: Types, Stages, Symptoms and Treatment.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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Updated Date: Jan 13, 2020 14:44:30 IST
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