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Ask the Experts: Is Smiling Contagious?

WomanSmiling-300x200According to American screenwriter Frank Howard Clark, “Most smiles are started by another smile.” While we know that a variety of emotions can trigger us to smile, is it true that a simple smile can be passed on to others? Is smiling actually contagious? Research has explored this topic, and the findings may just be something to smile about.

Why Do We Smile?

Smiling was first explored by Darwin in 1871, when he first began to analyze facial muscle movements. He did this by stimulating them with electricity, and then studied the details of their contractions. He concluded that some facial movements express an individual’s state of mind, and that these movements are similar in people and animals. They are an artifact of social living, and have evolved in ways to properly telegraph our intentions and feelings.

Are Smiles Really Contagious?

The brain is hardwired for sociability, and when we interact with others, a neural bridge is created between brains. Our neurons provide a synchronizing function, and they can then activate the same region of our brain that has been activated in the brain of the person you’re interacting with; they are sometimes called mirror neurons. Essentially, when you see someone else smiling, your mirror neurons will stimulate a sensation within your mind that is associated with smiling. This causes you to smile yourself! This experience is effortless and immediate – contagious, if you will.

Can Smiling Make You Feel Better?

Research has also suggested that not only are smiles contagious, but they can also affect your mood. Studies have shown that smiling improves mood, and psychologists at the Mindlab International in Brighton, England suggested that a smile can have a ‘halo effect’. This means that smiling can leave a person feeling more positive, optimistic, and motivated.

Can Orthodontic Treatment Help?

A person’s smile is closely associated with their self-esteem and self-image. Research has indicated that people that have received orthodontic treatment such as hidden braces have a greater sense of self-worth after the completion of their treatment. You are never too old to get the smile you’ve always dreamed of, as orthodontic treatment can benefit people of any age. Plus, this higher confidence and self-esteem that you will achieve can benefit you throughout your life, and your contagious smile will be easily passed on to others.

Are There Other Benefits to Smiling?

In addition to being contagious and boosting your mood, there are other benefits to smiling. Smiling is shown to lower blood pressure, and to boost the immune system as your body relaxes. Smiling also releases endorphins and relieves stress, in addition to preventing us from looking overwhelmed, worn out, or tired.

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