Smiling isn’t so much contagious as it is an involuntary reaction known as mirroring — the act of matching a person’s facial expression.
Adrienne Wood, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, studies non-verbal communication; specifically, the way people communicate through facial expressions.
“In order to recognize the facial expressions and emotional expressions we see, we recreate what it feels like to do that facial expression,” said Wood. “We refer to that stimulation to understand what the person in front of us is feeling and what their intentions are. Then you know how to respond appropriately. This is all happening without you even thinking about it.”
This was backed up by another study by T.L. Kraft et al., who found that humans subconsciously “try on” each other’s expressions in order to understand how others are feeling. In essence, the contagiousness of smiling is our way of connecting with others and triggering the appropriate emotions in the moment.
As it turns out, forcing a smile can actually change your emotions, according to a report by Psychology Today. If you’re not feeling your best on a particular day, the act of smiling can trigger your body to release dopamine, endorphins and serotonin – neurotranmitters that make you feel good – to elevate your mood. Some people have found that simply smiling at themselves in the mirror can achieve this result. And if the grin staring back at you is clean and healthy, it will make you feel even better about yourself… all the more reason to look after those pearly whites of yours!
How a healthy mouth leads to a better smile
Yes, taking good care of your teeth will make them look better. And you’ll smile bigger because you’ll be more confident. A healthy mouth also means better breath, so you won’t feel like you have to hold back a hearty “HA!”
A last word about contagious smiling
You’ve no doubt heard that 90% of human communication is non-verbal. Your gestures speak volumes about what you’re feeling and how you feel about the person you’re “not speaking” to. Smiling will go a long way to making every conversation more positive.