Name one thing you’ve been missing a lot of this past year and a half?

If seeing smiles beaming from the faces of others comes to mind, I couldn’t agree more! 

Smiling is a cost-free but priceless gift we give to others. As research shows, it is a gift we simultaneously give ourselves as well.

It turns out that when we smile, either because it naturally occurred in response to a thought, to another person, to something in our environment, or for no specific reason, there is a positive bio-chemical response in our system that is activated. 

In fact, a healthy cascade of neurochemicals is released when we smile, and we are far better off physically, mentally, and emotionally because of it.


You’ve probably noticed the ‘smile effect’ in your own life: 

  • How do you feel when someone smiles you at you?
  • What impact have you had on others when you smile at them?
  • What have you noticed when you see others smile at each other?
  • Have you noticed how much better you feel when you smile?
  • What about when you’ve been smiling so much that your face hurts?

When you ponder these questions, you may be amazed by the feelings and memories that readily surface.

Smiling not only makes you look great and boosts your mood, but it also assists your body and brain in releasing stress-based chemicals of cortisol and endorphins.

As well, numerous other benefits include:

  • Reduction of stress and pain
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased endurance
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Reduced physical tension
  • Stronger self confidence
  • Elevated levels of happiness
  • Greater approachability
  • Longer lifespan


While there is a range of smiles, (and each of us has our own ‘signature smile style), researchers who’ve studied this topic extensively know that a particular type of smile called the ‘Duchenne’ is among the most influential of all human expressions.

This type of smile is broad and effortless, and it changes the expression of your entire face. It reaches your eyes and shines out through them and makes the corners of your eyes twinkle and wrinkle up with “laugh lines”.   

Many people refer to this as ‘smeyeing’ – which means to smile with your eyes.

The Duchenne smile is named after a 19th century scientist named Guillaume Duchenne who is known for mapping the muscles of the human body, including the muscles that control facial expressions.

With a Duchenne smile, the zygomaticus major muscle lifts the corners of your mouth while the orbicularis oculi raises your cheeks, subsequently causing these “laugh lines” at the outside corners of your eyes. This constriction of the eyes is the marker of true enjoyment, and others can feel it, too.


Studies in the field of facial feedback using MRI scans show that smiling can change and uplift your mood. This is because information from the muscles in your face are sent as signals to your brain. Depending on what these signals are indicating (tension or relaxation, etc.), this will in turn influence your emotional state.

In fact, research shows that in general, relaxation techniques and therapies can reduce muscle tension and decrease the incidence of certain stress-related disorders such as headaches.  These techniques and therapies can improve your mood, your daily functions and can increase a sense of well-being.

Neurobiologist Peggy Mason says smiles can be contagious and when one person looks at another and smiles, a brief ‘social cohesion’ bond is formed that enables them to feel empathy and contributes to each other’s survival.

In a tech driven world where digital social interactions are more frequent, and becoming the workplace and social norm, a real-life, real-time gesture of a human smile has tremendous value and connection power.


While the Duchenne smile is recognized as the most authentic expression of happiness, this does not mean that non-Duchenne smiles should be disregarded or considered “fake.“

A more accurate way of describing non-Duchenne smiles might be an act of “politeness.” Polite smiles often communicate social pleasantry. They can even signal discreet psychological distance, which in fact may be an appropriate response in certain instances.

Ultimately, smiling is a personal habit, and one that we can build and cultivate through consistent practise. In my presentations I often refer to the neuroscience of smiling.  I encourage people to ‘smile for no reason’ – even if no one is around and especially if you are passing by a mirror and catch your own reflection.

This is especially important to practise if you did not grow up seeing those around you smile a lot or have smiles frequently reflected back to you. Some people are naturally more serious and have an austere appearance. Children who grow up in this type of environment may not have had the role modeling of smiling, and therefore it may not come as natural to them.

However, as with anything in life, the more we do it the more familiar it becomes, and the better we get at it.  Smiling is no exception.

So don’t underestimate the value of this incredible aspect of our human nature, because neurochemically speaking, when I see you smile, I’m already halfway to smiling back.

To your Fit Brain & Fit Life,