In this article, we are eager to explore what the health benefits of smiling genuinely are and how far they reach. How can a smile influence our well-being, and would it be possible to facilitate these advantages of smiling to enhance our quality of life? CARE gives you scientific insight into the topic.
Published in Mental Health · 7 min read · Oct 02, 2023
Published in Mental Health
7 min read · Oct 02, 2023
Usually, when we smile, it is because something makes us happy or we want to express friendliness towards another person. But there is so much more to a smile than that – smiling influences our mental health and how we perceive the world around us. 
Think back to a moment when you were smiling at something that made you really happy, like seeing an adorable puppy or witnessing something truly funny. You will surely remember the positive feelings that you experienced at that moment. Every so often, we think back to a joyful moment that makes us smile instantly, and we can feel a dose of happiness rushing through our bodies. An honest and wholehearted smile can feel like a natural drug.
That tingly feeling in your gut when you smile or think back to a happy moment are endorphins that are being released by your body. Endorphins, also referred to as “feel-good chemicals,” are neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain that play a key role in regulating our mood and emotions. Endorphins are released in response to various stimuli, such as exercise, laughter, excitement, and even as a reaction to certain foods. When endorphins are released, they can create a sense of euphoria, excitement, and well-being. People often describe the feeling as a “natural high” or a sense of elation.
Having these positive feelings is just one of many effects of smiling or laughing – the advantages of smiling go way deeper than that.
We’ll showcase to you the scientific knowledge that is available concerning the benefits of smiling.
Smiling boosts your mood through a combination of neurological, physiological, and psychological mechanisms. Contracting your smile muscles triggers a series of interconnected processes in your brain and body that contribute to feelings of happiness and well-being. When you smile, the brain releases a cascade of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These “feel-good” chemicals play a crucial role in regulating your mood and emotions. 
Each of these chemicals in our brain plays a different role in our mood regulation. Dopamine is associated with pleasure and reward, endorphins provide physical pain relief and euphoria, and serotonin contributes to mood stabilization and a sense of well-being.
Not only does smiling enhance your mood, but it is also able to lower your stress levels. The act of smiling triggers a decrease in the production of stress hormones such as cortisol. This can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. 
When our cortisol levels are lowered, our body experiences a more relaxed and calm state, and our muscles relax.
Evolutionarily, we humans are wired to form and maintain social interaction, as it enhances our chances of survival and reproduction. Smiling increases our socially perceived attractiveness and is considered a signal of trustworthiness and intelligence.
When we see someone else smile, our mirror neurons are activated, causing us to mimic the expression unconsciously. 
This leads to a shared emotional experience and increases feelings of empathy and rapport. A fMRI study found that viewing attractive faces activates the orbitofrontal cortex in our brain, a region involved in processing sensory rewards. In the study, the activity in this region was even stronger when the face in focus wore a smile. This indicates that smiling makes us more attractive. 
Since the list of benefits of smiling is long, we have one more astonishing advantage that comes with a smile: Smiling can boost your immune system by promoting the release of beneficial neurotransmitters like endorphins and serotonin, which help reduce stress and inflammation. The positive emotions associated with smiling enhance the activity of our immune cells, improve immune responses, and contribute to a healthier immune system overall. 
Furthermore, while smiling alone is not a guaranteed way to prevent illnesses, fostering a positive mood and outlook through smiling and other means can potentially support our immune function. 
Can you smile through pain? Yes, in some sort of way, we can trick our brains and decrease the pain we experience by smiling. But how does that work?
Smiling can reduce pain by triggering the release of endorphins, natural pain-relieving chemicals in the brain. When we smile, the brain interprets it as a positive signal and releases these endorphins, which act as natural painkillers, lowering our perception of pain. 
Furthermore, another advantage of smiling is that it can help relax facial muscles and alleviate tension, which indirectly contributes to pain reduction through relaxation and improved blood flow.
Can a smile protect us from a heart attack? Well, obviously, it isn’t that simple. A recent study has found that a happy person can have reduced coronary incidents.  The influence of happiness on our cardiovascular health is one of the many benefits of smiling.
Smiling and being happy can improve your cardiovascular health by promoting the release of endorphins and reducing stress hormones, which in turn leads to lower blood pressure and reduced heart rate. Positive emotions associated with happiness can also lead to better blood vessel function and improved circulation, supporting overall heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 
Is it possible to learn how to smile more often? The scientific data is clear – smiling is good for our physical and mental health, which is why we should seek out the benefits of smiling by doing it more frequently.
But can we even influence when and how often we have to smile? Interestingly enough, even a “fake smile” does lead to the advantages of smiling.  Therefore, it is okay to “fake it until you make it,” but we are keen to give you some inspiring tips on how to smile more often naturally.
Interacting with fellow souls can be a gateway to more frequent smiles, a shared journey where laughter lights the way. As we exchange stories, connect through humor, and intertwine our emotions, genuine happiness lets us take advantage of the benefits of smiling. Surround yourself with people who are like-minded and who lift you up instead of draining your energy.
These connections can lead to the release of said neurotransmitters that let our body benefit from smiling, coloring our days with vibrant hues of happiness and relaxation.
Another piece of advice is to find more joy and humor in your life and not to take everything too seriously. It is just like Eleanor Roosevelt said: “If life were predictable, it would cease to be life and be without flavor.”
So, to discover more reasons to smile, you can actively search for humor in everyday situations. Try to recognize the joyful aspects of daily life, such as finding happiness in a pet's antics or the simple pleasure of raindrops on a window.
By adopting a lighthearted perspective and seeking sources of amusement, you can cultivate a habit of smiling more often.
Another great tip to smile more often to profit from the benefits of smiling is to laugh at yourself. Learning to laugh at ourselves involves embracing our imperfections and quirks with a gentle perspective.
It's about recognizing that blunders and idiosyncrasies are part of you being human and embracing the imperfections in these moments can lead to greater self-acceptance, a more lighthearted outlook on life, and, naturally, more smiles.
Through this, you can weave laughter into your life’s story, creating a tapestry of resilience and joy.
To invite more laughter and smiles into your life, we advise you to open the door to life's amusing sides and to let in the light. Try seeking out humor in the mundane, like sharing joyful moments with your loved ones and indulging in activities that evoke genuine happiness in you.
Embrace the simple pleasure of a hearty chuckle and the warmth of a sincere smile. Try to smile at others, even strangers, as often as possible, and you might just make their day and your own whilst seizing the benefits of smiling. Because every one of us likes to be smiled at, and you can start.
Sometimes, it just takes a smile 🙂
Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!