The simple act of smiling more can boost your immune system. Interaction between our muscles, neural system, and the brain creates an internal fueling station that can recharge your day. If your mood has been less than optimal or you’re feeling out of sorts physically, a smile might be just the medicine you need!
It Starts with a Muscle Twitch
Every smile begins with one muscle, namely, the zygomaticus major. Also known as the smile muscle, it extends from the cheekbone near the ear to the corner of the mouth on both sides of the face. In total 43 muscles control all of our facial expressions. But the zygomaticus major is the main one responsible for smiling.
When the zygomaticus major retracts, or tenses, it pulls up the corners of our mouth. Because the smile muscle is tied directly into our neural network. That connection means that when we smile a message is sent directly to the brain. This begins a cascade of simultaneous actions.
The Chemical Reaction in Your Brain
The act of smiling instructs the brain to release neuropeptides. These small molecules fend off stress in a unique way. Initially, they cause a slight increase in blood pressure. This may also result in a slightly flushed feeling. As these little messengers travel through the body, it causes a relaxing effect.
The neuropeptides have names you may be familiar with — serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine. Each has a specific mission within our body.
Endorphins act as pain relievers and stress reducers. There have been numerous studies conducted in which surgical patients subjected to laughter have a faster rate of healing. If you fall and laugh about it, it doesn’t seem to hurt as much because of the endorphins released.
Dopamine and serotonin are the body’s anti-depressants. Collectively, these three neurotransmitters are often called “happy hormones.” Not only are they released when we smile, but they make us feel better. Additionally, laughing and smiling can have beneficial effects on our overall health.
How Smiling Affects Your Health
Smiling has numerous benefits to our health. One of the most significant is that laughter can lower blood pressure. Although it may not replace blood pressure medications if you need them, it may help in lowering the level of medication you need.
Other areas where smiling can help your general health:
- Reduces stress levels
- Better heart health
- Reduces chronic pain levels
- Increases endurance
Although it may not be the proverbial “Fountain of Youth,” smiling even increases your life expectancy.
It should be noted here that even a fake smile can make a difference. If you smile at yourself in the mirror, you may notice a momentary mood boost. When that happens, endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin continue traveling through your entire body working their magic.
Additionally, while all that is taking place, your immune system is also getting a boost!
How Does Smiling Boost Your Immune System?
When our brain releases dopamine after we smile, wonderful things begin to happen throughout the entire body. Dopamine acts like a tiny chemical messenger that affects many parts of the body.
It aids in motivation and learning, sleep, attention span, mood, kidney function, heart rate, and blood vessel function. It also has an active role in movement and assists with pain processing.
For nursing mothers, it can assist with lactation. Within our digestive system, dopamine also helps in controlling nausea and vomiting.
When we smile, dopamine goes to work activating the immune system. This increases the production of antibodies and other illness-killing cells.
Our immune system works more efficiently when we are happy and smiling. Our entire body works better with the act of smiling and laughter.
Increase Your Smiling to Boost Your Immune System
As adults, we should work to recapture some of the exuberance of our youth. You see, children average 400 to 500 smiles every day. Happy adults only smile 40 to 50 times each day, which is a huge difference. For most adults it is even worse — managing to smile only 20 to 30 times a day.
The very adult things that seem to keep us from smiling are the exact things that smiling can help — stress levels, health, and resistance to illness! If we could somehow add smiling and laughter to our lives we could make at least some things better!
There are several things that you can do to add a smile or two to your day:
- Watch funny movies or situational comedies on TV
- Attend a local comedy show on date night
- Read funny books
- Remember things in your past that made you happy
- Laugh about daily life mishaps (like wearing one brown sock and one black sock)
When you’re really stuck, there are tons of silly cat videos on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. The antics of pets almost always bring a cheerful smile and often outright laughter. Keep an eye out throughout your day for those simple moments that can trigger a release of happy hormones. They are everywhere.
Laughter Truly Is the Best Medicine
Doctors and therapists are finding laughter so helpful that they even prescribe laughter therapy! How does that work, you ask. This simple concept gathers a group of people in a room. Someone begins, usually with a very unconvincing fake laugh.
So fake, in fact, that someone responds with a real giggle. Pretty soon guffaws are happening among the entire group. That’s all there is to it — people just get together and laugh. It doesn’t have to be an organized group either. You can create a watercooler laugh-fest in the break room during lunch at work.
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Add smiling to your day to boost your immune system. Smiling is a contagion we could all profit from sharing!
Finding the Laughter of the Young
If you are hesitant to smile because you don’t like the appearance of your teeth, Milestone Orthodontics can help. You can begin right away by following the prompts in the SmileSnap app for a Virtual Smile Assessment. You can also schedule a Complimentary Consultation online or call one of our offices.