There’s Magic in Your Smile and it’s Coming from Your Brain


“Wipe off that “full of doubt” look

Slap on a happy grin

And spread sunshine all over the place

And put on a happy face.

   ~  Lyrics by Lee Adams (video)


A happy team is a productive team. Does success and quality of working life feed that happiness? Yes, but it is not the only thing that drives people to happiness. Smile and change the outcome. A Penn State University study confirmed that when we smile we not only appear more likeable, trustworthy and courteous, but we’re actually perceived to be more competent. And yes, at work we are more productive as well. While the brain is naturally inclined to think in negative terms as a defense mechanism, the act of smiling helps our mind move to a more positive space and remain there longer the more you do it.

So, what really happens to our brain when we smile? The brain has an amazing ability to throw a feel-good party right up there in the top of our head – without using drugs of any kind. The act of smiling actually activates our brain’s messaging system in a way that positively affects our health, happiness, and productivity. Here’s how it works.

Your Brain On Smiles

It all starts when we curve our mouth upward. This simple movement releases neuropeptides, which are tiny molecules that help the neurons in our brain communicate with one another … an effect felt throughout our whole body. Suddenly, whether we’re happy, sad, angry, depressed, excited, neuropeptides relax our body.  Neurotransmitters release special feel-good hormones: dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These hormones can lower heart rate and blood pressure and literally decimate whatever is emotionally frazzling us.

Endorphins are also natural pain relievers. Don’t like taking a pill for pain relief? Leave it to your smile to deliver 100 percent natural, non-addicting, organic relief.

While endorphins are flowing, serotonin – another natural hormone – is released. This one acts like an anti-depressant. Pharmaceutical companies have manufactured synthetic versions of serotonin but flash your brilliant smile and you don’t have to worry about the possible negative side effects of taking a manufactured drug – and you don’t need a prescription from your doctor. Cool, huh?

Smiling Is Good For Business

So that’s the physiology behind the smile. Now let’s talk about what happens when you flash your pearly whites at other people. More magic happens.

A smile is contagious. Yes, it really is. The part of the brain that controls the facial expression of smiling lives in the same neighborhood as unconscious automatic responses. If you direct your smile at someone, they literally can’t help but smile back. Try it if you don’t believe me.

Faking a smile has the same effect on our brains as the genuine article. Our brain doesn’t know the difference. It interprets our facial expression, not the intent behind it. But fake a smile and direct it toward others and they’ll pick up on the insincerity in a heartbeat.

Smiling also works on the same principle as training our muscles to get in shape. The more often you smile, your brain remembers and sets up a happiness loop. Our brain is being trained like an athlete trains – by repeated practice. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, lists smiling as one of the core principles of work performance and success.

Smiles are a major behavior skill that drives business owners, leaders, and the people that work for them to success. Smiles sell. Smiles improve communication.  Even smiles printed on paper, objects, and those that are electronically transmitted have power.

Smiling Makes You Much More Productive

So smiling is a magical tool that gives to the giver and gives to the receiver. A smile, genuinely delivered, is nothing to laugh about – well, ok, it can be something to laugh about. Some of the perks:

  • If you’re trying to win over your team members and influence people in the business world, a smile will make those around you more cooperative. You have a better chance of getting what you want, convincing someone, getting someone to do something, diffuse a tense situation. It works on the principle of putting on the charm. You’ve heard the expression “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” A smile can do this; a sourpuss expression can’t.
  • Smiling is good for getting work done. A smile can keep your team happy. If the people that work for you see that you’re happy, they get the message you approve of them. They feel safe and valued. Happy people do good work.
  • The confidence factor. When you smile, you’re showing others you understand, empathize, that you’re on their side when snafus happen. There’s a confidence factor. Smiling says “I trust you will figure it out and get the job done.” And when the other person smiles back, they’re showing you they have the ability to handle a stressful situation.
  • A smile sets the stage for cooperation. British researcher Marc Mehu describes a smile as a signal for the formation of cooperative relationships. If you need someone to cooperate and help solve a problem, Mehu says, a smile is а visual signal that tacitly communicates, “I wіll hеlp you.”
  • If you smile more often you will see others draw closer to you. You become more approachable. What better testament to good leadership skills than to be surrounded by people that want to be around you for a simple, basic reason: the magnetism generated by your smiling face.
  • An expression of authenticity. A smile is our body’s response when we feel something pleasant. It signifies an understanding, a connection, an engagement with life. But it has to come from the heart.
  • Smiles get things done. Every time you smile the neurons in your brain fire up. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that makes you feel good, gives you those warm fuzzies. Can you imagine how your workplace could be transformed if everyone felt the impulse to smile often? Sometimes leaders lose sight of that. It’s their loss as well as the loss of those they manage.

The Smile Felt Around the World

The beauty, the simplicity, the elegance of a smile is a universal language. Like a picture, a smile expresses a thousand words. It is transformative. It opens up opportunities. A giant broadcast antenna, a smile has no geographic borders, is limitless, and a rich source for tapping into meaningful connections with one another. Don”t miss its magic power.