Peace begins with a smile

Mother Theresa

The universal language of a smile speaks straight to the heart, bypassing the intellect and ego. Ayurveda advises one to greet others with a pleasant face to nurture loving relationships, Taoism teaches that giving ourselves a grin is the best medicine.

Research by French physiologist Dr Israel Waynbaum showed that facial muscles used for smiling or showing anger trigger different chemicals in the brain. Smiling secretes hormones such as pain-killing, ‘good mood’ endorphins and immune boosting killer T-cells while the stress hormones secreted by a scowl may increase blood pressure and susceptibility to infections as well as exacerbating depression and anxiety.

Some say it takes more muscles to frown than smile, but Dr David H. Song, a plastic surgeon, proposes that of the 53 facial muscles, depending on the intensity of the expression, 12 are used for smiling and only 11 for frowning. It seems that after a smile, the ‘frowning’ muscles relax more readily.

We may be able to improve someone’s day – as well as our own – with something as simple as a smile. Smiles are irresistible, contagious and fun. Share heartfelt smiles with everyone you see, with extra big smiles for your family and friends. Look in the mirror and smile at yourself. How does it make you feel?

I catch a reflection of myself in a shop window sometimes and realise I’m frowning – possibly concentrating on my shopping list, but I’ll be delighted if you smile at me and remind me of this article. Perhaps you don’t feel like smiling, but neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne who studied the nature of smiling, found that even a superficial ‘false’ smile which doesn’t extend to the eyes has the same effect on yourself and others, so through positive feedback, you’ll start to feel better and realise that a smile is the sweetest treasure we can give.

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