Smiling can trick your brain into believing you’re happy which can then spur actual feelings of happiness. But it doesn’t end there. Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist in Los Angeles points to the science of psychoneuroimmunology (the study of how the brain is connected to the immune system), asserting that it has been shown “over and over again” that depression weakens your immune system, while happiness, on the other hand, has been shown to boost our body’s resistance.
“What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity,” says Dr. Grossan. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”
In a sense, the brain is a sucker for a grin. It doesn’t bother to sort out whether you’re smiling because you’re genuinely joyous, or because you’re just pretending.
“Even forcing a fake smile can legitimately reduce stress and lower your heart rate,” adds Dr. Sivan Finkel, a cosmetic dentist at NYC’s The Dental Parlour. “A study performed by a group at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.”
And there are plenty more studies out there to make you smile (or at least, serve as a reference for why you should). Researchers at the University of Kansas published findings that smiling helps reduce the body’s response to stress and lower heart rate in tense situations; another study linked smiling to lower blood pressure, while yet another suggests that smiling leads to longevity.
“Smiling absolutely changes the way I think and feel,” says Jaime Pfeffer, a success coach and meditation instructor based in Florida. “My husband and I purposely spend 60 seconds every morning smiling to supercharge our mood. It’s part of our morning routine. If something goes awry during the day, I usually use smiling to quickly shift my mood. It only takes 10 to 15 seconds for it to make a difference for me now. It helps me to feel less stressed, transform my mood quickly and put things in a different perspective.”