25 Feb Why A Real Smile Begins in Your Brain: An Introduction
There’s an art to determining whether someone has a genuine smile or is simply faking it. Most sources will tell you to look for wrinkles around the eye – if the wrinkles are there, the smile is real.
However, the art of determining whether or not a smile is real goes much deeper than looking at someone’s face. A real smile begins in your brain.
Neuroscience, or the study of the nervous system, can be an overwhelming subject. Despite this, the basics are actually pretty simple. Your brain communicates using chemicals called neurotransmitters, and these chemicals dictate how you feel. Feelings aren’t a tangible part of your body, of course, but neurotransmitters are the closest thing to it. When it comes to smiling, there are four important chemicals in play in your brain: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins (we will shorten these chemicals to D.O.S.E. for the sake of convenience). When you smile, your brain releases a DOSE of these chemicals automatically.
Become Your Body’s Own Chemist With a Smile
To investigate the science of smiling a little further, let’s look into what these four chemicals do. Dopamine, or the “D” in D.O.S.E., is what’s responsible for making you reach for that last chip when you know you really shouldn’t. It’s your brain telling you to keep going because a reward is coming soon. Some people have compared the feeling after smiling to the feeling after winning a $25,000 lottery ticket – it’s true! When you smile, you feel rewarded because of dopamine.
You may have heard of Oxytocin, or the “O” in D.O.S.E., as the “love hormone.” While this is partially true, it’s not the whole story. Oxytocin is, quite simply, a bonding hormone. It’s released after sex, yes, but it’s not always physical – when someone likes your status on Facebook, your brain releases oxytocin. If you ever want to control a complete stranger’s mind, just smile at them! Smiling at somebody will release oxytocin in both your own and the other person’s brains.
“We tend to mimic the smiles or frowns of others because it helps us better understand what other people are feeling, allowing us to respond appropriately.” -Jacqueline Howard, Huffington Post
Mind Control Is Real – And It’s in Your Smile
The “S” in D.O.S.E. stands for Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter most commonly related to status and praise. For prehistoric people, achieving a dominant status triggered the release of serotonin, which is essentially your brain’s own way of praising you. Serotonin is also closely connected to happiness. While many antidepressants manage your brain’s serotonin levels, there’s an easier (and free) way to do it yourself – just smile! Smiling automatically releases a flood of serotonin in your brain.
Finally, the “E” in D.O.S.E. stands for Endorphins. Endorphins are commonly associated with the elation we experience after prolonged exercise – specifically, the “runner’s high.” The effects of endorphins can be intensely euphoric and are similar to the strongest painkillers. Thankfully, they’re much less dangerous! When you smile, your body releases endorphins, and you don’t have to lift a single pound to reap their rewards.
So, what’s the point of D.O.S.E.? Just like you can’t control the dose of medication your pharmacist gives you, it’s difficult to control the dose of these important chemicals your brain gives you. However, it’s not completely out of reach.
By smiling regularly – both for your own sake and the sake of others – you can improve your life in every way. To learn more about how to improve your life by smiling, check out Darryl Davis’ latest book, How to Design a Life Worth Smiling About. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog!