Smile for a better work out!
Getting through the most intense peak of your workout is hard, sometimes painful, and the seconds seem to crawl while you’re pushing through it. But the next time you’re feeling this, you might want to grin and bear it. Literally. According to new research, smiling might make your workout more powerful.
In the small study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, researchers had 24 participants of both sexes—all of whom were experienced recreational runners—smile or frown throughout their workouts without knowing why. Although frowning worked for a few people—basically because it’s a “game face” of sorts—smiling led to a superior performance as a group.
"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." —Thich Nhat Hanh
How Smiling Affects Your Brain
Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.
For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, or excited. The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well.
This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever — 100-percent organic and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions.
Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter (5). Many of today’s pharmaceutical anti-depressants also influence the levels of serotonin in your brain, but with a smile, you again don’t have to worry about negative side effects — and you don’t need a prescription from your doctor.
How Smiling Affects Your Body
You’re actually better-looking when you smile — and I’m not just trying to butter you up. When you smile, people treat you differently. You’re viewed as attractive, reliable, relaxed, and sincere. A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing an attractive, smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. This suggests that when you view a person smiling, you actually feel rewarded.
It also explains the 2011 findings by researchers at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Subjects were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness. They found that both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not (6). If you don’t believe me, see how many looks you get when you walk outside with that smile you're wearing right now. (You’re still smiling like I asked, right?)
How Smiling Affects Those Around You
Did you know that your smile is actually contagious? The part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression of smiling when happy or mimicking another’s smile resides in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area.
So if you’re smiling at someone, it’s likely they can’t help but smile back. If they don’t, they’re making a conscious effort not to.
The world is simply a better place when you smile.
So smile and smile often!