Marbles: the Brain Blog

By Paulette
3/5/2013 6:28:00 PM
It was cold and snowy today and my bus ride to work was typical packed with sleepy, slightly grumpy people who are just ready for the weekend. No one looks at each other or interacts unless they have to. Even when walking down the street, we all keep our heads down and avoid eye contact. When I got off of the bus I decided to fight against the heaviness and the drabness of the wintery day. I decided to make an effort to smile, even with snow blowing in my face. During my seven block walk to the office I experienced interesting responses. Some gave me a quizzical look "Why is she smiling?" Others smiled and said "hello" or "good morning". The city workers who were fixing the sidewalk smiled and laughed when I started clapping because they were almost done with this project that has been going on for over a month. On the next block, the garbage truck passed me and the "San man" on the back of the truck waved and said "Nice smile!" The parade of people walking their dogs returned the smile or at least looked me in the eye. (Was it my imagination or did the Labradoodle even smile at me?) Smiling can be infectious. A Swedish study asked participants to view pictures of faces expressing either positive or negative emotion. The results showed that the photographs evoked automatic muscle responses in the face that corresponded with the positive or negative emotion they were feeling. It seems we may smile back before we even decide to respond. Smiling actually activates the reward center in your brain. In fact the British Dental Foundation backed a study that showed smiling gives you the same level of stimulation as 2,000 bars of chocolate. (I wonder if someone actually ate 2,000 bars of chocolate?)And, strange as it may sound, one of the positive side effects of Botox injections seems to be that the contraction of the facial muscles used for smiling makes people feel happier (and not just because of their cosmetic appearance). It's not just good for your mental health, smiling can even improve physical health.åÊ Research has shown that it can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress hormones in your body. Now that I know all of this, I am attempting to continue my efforts to smile more. There is a lot of negative energy in the world, and it's hard not to get sucked into it.åÊ Maybe one way to fight it is with a smile. Science says it will make you feel better, and can even make those around you feel better.   References: Abel E. and Kruger M. (2010) Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity, Psychological Science, 21, 542"Ò544. Brindley, Madeleine. "Research claims Botox makes people happier". Web. April 1, 2009.<www.walesonline.co.uk> Dimberg, Ulf, Thurnberg, Monika, and Grunedal, Sara. "Facial reactions to emotional stimuli: Automatically controlled emotional responses".COGNITION AND EMOTION, 2002, 16 (4), 449"Ò471. "The UK's leading oral health charity has backed research that says smiling can give more pleasure than sex or chocolate." British Dental Health Foundation. Web. March 5, 2005. <http://www.dentalhealth.org/news/details/209. Kraft, T.L. and Pressman, S.D. The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science. Sept. 24, 2012. 1372-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797612445312

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