At Village Park Senior Living, we’re always looking for ways to make seniors smile. We’ve always known that a smile can brighten anyone’s day, but it might be even more powerful than we’d previously thought. Common sense tells us that we smile because we’re happy, but it apparently also works in other ways—that is, science also tells us that simply smiling can make us happier. It also makes you appear more attractive to other people and might possibly even lengthen your life. Better health and happiness might literally be right under your nose.
Every time you smile, your brain receives a signal telling it that you’re happy. You may not be so easily fooled, but with some repetition and persistence, your brain just might be. The act of smiling sends neural messages that benefit your health and happiness. It’s been shown that smiling makes your brain release neuropeptides, tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate and send neurotransmitters. When you smile, the neurotransmitters that make you feel happy and relaxed (dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin) are released. Encouraging your body to release serotonin is an excellent, natural way to improve your mood, and smiling is a free, simple way to encourage that serotonin release. It turns out that, when it comes to improving mood, “fake it ‘till you make it” might be good advice.
How does this benefit your health? For starters, it can help lower and regulate your heart rate and blood pressure, aspects of your health that are linked to your mood. Over the long term, improving your mood can relieve overall stress levels, which certainly affect short-term blood pressure, perhaps even long-term. There are also indications that elevated mood might improve immune-system response. Endorphins can even act as natural pain relievers, which is great news for those of us who have chronic pain conditions.
You might find forcing a smile to be more difficult than it sounds, and doctors recommend starting off by steadying your breathing and trying to relax your body and mind. This is also where laughter can be helpful; if you know what can make you smile and/or laugh with some reliability, you might not have to fake a smile at all. No matter what makes you happy in the moment—inspirational stories, cute animal videos, your favorite song—you can probably find it online in just a few clicks. Furthermore, next time you’re deciding between a drama and a comedy for movie night, knowing the physical and mental health benefits of smiling and laughter may help you commit to the latter.
If you’re interested in learning more about independent living, assisted living, or memory care in one of our communities, contact Village Park Senior Living to schedule a tour. Our courteous staff will go over our living options and help you determine which one might be right for you. For more special interest stories and informative articles about topics for seniors and our community, you can also check out our weekly blog or follow us on Facebook to get the latest news and updates.