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Smiling is a simple act that comes instinctively when we see something nice, beautiful, or funny. A smile is a gesture of happiness and appreciation. A smile is only a series of contractions in our facial muscles, yet becomes associated with everything good in the world. Read on to find out more information from Ottawa therapists about the power of a smile:

Brain Chemistry
When we smile, our facial muscles contract, which causes our thin facial bones to distort slightly. As a consequence, we experience an increase of blood flow to the brain’s frontal lobe, resulting in the release of dopamine. In turn, the dopamine system interacts with brain chemicals called opioids, causing a feeling of happiness and pleasure. Happiness makes us smile, but smiling also causes happiness.


Approach Behaviour

Approach-avoidance theories describe how animals and people alike react to different stimuli. When you are drawn toward rewarding stimuli, this is known as approach behaviour, whereas avoidance behaviour describes the instinctive repellence away from aversive stimuli. Consider the difference between a scowl and a smile. Genuine smiles represent friendliness, happiness, and emotional warmth. Even as babies, we practice approach behaviour toward people who smile. When you smile, you welcome the world.


Emotional Contagion
Have you ever noticed how the entire room can light up when someone happy and vibrant walks in? This phenomenon is known as emotional contagion. It is possible for us to catch the emotions of others. Just as we feel empathic toward someone crying or anxious around someone who is very tense, smiles are also contagious. When you greet the world with a smile, you aren’t just exhibiting internal pleasure and satisfaction. You are also inviting those around you to join in the happiness.


False vs. Authentic Smile
When we smile an authentic smile, the zygomaticus major works with other muscles to draws the mouth upward. At the same time, your orbicularis oculi muscle contracts involuntarily, raising the cheeks. In combination, this creates what we all recognizes as a genuine smile. A false smile, on the other hand, only involves contraction of the zygomaticus major. Genuine smiles come from the limbic system, which is the emotional centre of the brain. False smiles are controlled by the motor cortex and have no emotion behind them. You can brighten your own mood with a false smile, but if you want the benefits of approach behaviour and emotional contagion, only a genuine smile will do.


There’s no doubt that a smile is a very powerful expression. Just by smiling, you can brighten your own life and the world around you.