Quick Ways to De-Stress: Smiling Activates the Release of Feel-Good-Hormones

By Research  Writer: Margaret W. Lavigne 

Smiling Rewards Our Brains

Our brains are keeping track of how many smiles we created, which somehow affects our unconscious mind.  Our brains feel happy each time we smile. Smiling activates the release of feel-good- hormones to counter stress. When we smile, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin all released into the bloodstream, helping lower our heart rate and blood pressure. Researchers at the University of Kansas found that smiling helps lower heart rate in tedious anxious situations.

Smiling helps generate positive emotions within us, leading to lowe stress-induced hormones. Smiling speeds recovery from short-term stress. Also, smiling during exercise make a workout more enjoyable.

 Another study linked smiling to longevity. One study found that women who had smiled the most in their college yearbook photos had happier lives and fewer personal setbacks in the following three decades. 

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Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release helps reduce our stress. Low levels of serotonin is highly associated with depression and aggression. It’s worth noting that endorphins are natural painkillers. Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that helps defeat stress. Altogether, smiling proved to lift our mood, lower stress, boost our immune system and resistance.


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Ultrasounds have found babies smile in the womb, and babies smile in their sleep.  Darwin found that those who are born blind smile too. People fail to smile because they suffer from mild depression, suppressed anger or anxiety without awareness. 


When you’re so frustrated, try grinning instead. Studies suggest smiling is good for our body psychologically and physiologically, whether you feel happy or not. There’s an old proverb that goes “grin and bear it.” Also, the Bible reminds us to enjoy the hard times in life with hope, self-discipline, temperance and tenderness. Research published in 2007 in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology concludes that focusing on positive thoughts helps improve feelings over time. Nevertheless, smiling is not an antidote for long-term acute stressors.


Laugh More to Those You Love 

Everyone likes being smiled at. Scientists found that seeing a smiling face activates our orbitofrontal cortex. In other words, seeing a smile makes us feel rewarded. That’s why smiling makes you more attractive. Much like yawning, negative and positive emotions are infectious.

▲Famed Taiwanese actor and Korean actress 


In a Swedish study, subjects were shown pictures of different emotions, including joy, fear, anger, and surprise. The participants were told to frown when shown a smiling person. Indeed, participants tend to echo the emotions of a smiling person rather than following the instructions by nature.


 Fake Smiles Work Well 

The brain fails to tell the difference between fake smiles and real smiles.  Dr. Sivan Finkel, being a cosmetic dentist at NYC’s The Dental Parlour, claims that “Even forcing a fake smile can legitimately reduce stress and lower your heart rate.”


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 than those who frown.


Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist in Los Angeles points to the science of psychoneuroimmunology, asserts that depression weakens our immune system and he claims that  “Just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity.” 

Dr. Grossan adds that  “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”



Those who fail to smile may experience depressive symptoms without awareness or not, which might cause a strong negative feedback loop. Conversely, smiling initiates and activates happiness of the brain, contributing to persistent stable positive emotions.


Smiling shifts our mood and affects how we feel and think. Set it a routine to spend 60 seconds every morning smiling when you wake up. By doing so, it helps you feel less stressed and generate a different perspective. By doing so, it helps you stay upbeat and being hopeful. By doing so, it helps you more energized and avoid burnout. A smile makes us feel better and fight against Satan’s attack, because Satan loves the smell of negative emotions.



Duchamp’s smile 

A Duchamp’s smile means you smile without using your mouth. Smiling with your eyes helps channel good thoughts and good emotions Smiling with your eyes does help you keep pleasant and positive emotions persistently.


Stay optimistic and keep a real smile throughout the day. Children are the ones who tend to be talented at laughing and smiling because they have less desire than adults. Indeed, those who are trapped by a sense of superiority, greed,  vanity or conceit have lower ability to be truly happy.


A Duchenne smile is named after Guillaume DuchenneTrusted Source, a 19th-century scientist who maps the muscles of facial expression.


A 2012 group of researchers Trusted Source demanded participants to maintain smiles throughout the stressful phases. The researchers concluded that smiling group stayed the lowest during stress recovery, with the calmest hearts being participants who had Duchenne smiles. Thus,  maintaining positive facial expressions during stress guarantee physiological and psychological benefits. Smile more and laugh more. A sense of humor is powerful and influential. 


Margaret W. Lavigne 

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[1] Hatfield, Elaine; Cacioppo, John T.; Rapson, Richard L. Clark, Margaret S. (Ed), (1992). Primitive emotional contagion. Emotion and social behavior. Review of personality and social psychology, Vol. 14., (pp. 151-177). Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc, xi, 311 pp.

[2] Abel E. and Kruger M. (2010) Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity, Psychological Science, 21, 542–544.

[3] Seaward BL. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett; 2009:258

[4] R.D. (2000). Neural correlates of conscious emotional experience. In R.D. Lane & L. Nadel (Eds.), Cognitive neuroscience of emotion (pp. 345–370). New York: Oxford University Press.

[5] Sonnby–Borgström, M. (2002), Automatic mimicry reactions as related to differences in emotional empathy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43: 433–443.

[6]Smiling with Your Eyes: What Exactly Is a Duchenne Smile? 

[7]How to De-Stress With a Smile


More info

  1. The Hidden Power of Smiling | Ron Gutman  |Ted Talk 
  2. Does Smiling Make You Happy?
  3. How the Brain Works: The Facts Visually Explained


Margaret W. Lavigne

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