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We’ve all seen our share of the ever-present smiley faces, but could there be something behind the smile that points straight up to the brain?
While research has documented that smiling can actually improve mood and reduce stress, new studies are showing that smiling can also be beneficial to a person’s general well-being and even career success.
“A study from Penn State University found that people who smile appear to be more likeable, courteous, and even competent,” notes Fast Company, a magazine for business professionals which has its own interests in the results of such research. “This is reason enough to smile at every person you potentially want to do business with. Lifting those facial muscles into a smile is also contagious — if you smile and they smile, everyone in the room becomes a little happier.”
Turns out, smiling can change the brain.
“The more you smile, the more effective you are at breaking the brain’s natural tendency to think negatively,” the story posits. “If you smile often enough, you end up rewiring your brain to make positive patterns more often than it does negative ones.”
Author Shawn Achor made some hay with such insights in his book “The Happiness Advantage.” Achor draws a parallel between the popular game Tetris (avid players see the Tetris blocks in their minds long after playing) with smiling and practicing positive thinking patterns to create a “happiness loop.”
“Happiness is a work ethic — it’s something that requires our brains to train just like an athlete has to train,” says Achor.
Is that old song “Smile and the whole world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone” as much neuroscience as natty tune?
Maybe so, according to Sondra Barrett, whose book “Secrets of Your Cells” makes the argument from the point of view of a biochemist.
According to Barrett’s research, training the brain to smile — to seek equilibrium and balance, reduce stress, emphasize the positive — is good for us.
“Our cells are more than just fortuitous arrangements of chemicals,” she explains. “They are a community of trillions of sentient entities cooperating to create a sanctuary for the human soul.”
Tags Brain, Penn State University, research, smile
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