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The Effects of Smiling on Your Mental Health

smile at a strangerMental health issues are running rampant – in fact, many are calling this a new epidemic. In a recent study (pre-pandemic), 2-3 people out of 5 reported that they suffered from mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and/or suicidal thoughts. Post-pandemic, that number has now increased to 4-5 out of 5 people. At Premier Dental Center in uptown San Antonio, we are committed to doing our part to increase awareness of these mental health issues and provide education and resources for people who may be suffering or at risk. As dental providers, we love smiles. We love smiling so much that it is quite literally our entire profession! Who knew that smiling can actually be one of the best treatments for depression, anxiety, and stress?

A Smile Can Change the World

Have you ever considered that just one smile could change the world? We have! Now, science backs us up. Smiling is not only good for us as individuals, but it is actually more contagious than the flu! A recent study showed that when you smile at someone, there is a greater than 90% chance that they will smile back. Why does that matter and how does it help? We’re glad you asked!

Our Brains On Smiles

When we experience joy, our brain released tiny molecules called neuropeptides. As our brain is transmitting these signals, it alerts our facial muscles to smile. The smile is the outward evidence of something really cool happening inside of us. The neuropeptides that our brain releases are full of chemicals called dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Once we smile, we enter into what our team likes to call ‘a happy loop’. The smile stimulates the brain to release more neuropeptides, which cause the facial muscles to smile, which then sends the signals to the brain – and the loop continues.

The Chemicals

Where do these happy chemicals go, though? Well, all of them perform different functions to help get us out of our ‘funk’. Dopamine increases our feelings of pleasure, while endorphins and serotonin act as pain relievers and natural anti-depressants. The more we smile, the more our brains flood our bodies with these incredible happy triggers. In medical studies, endorphins and serotonin (even in small amounts) have had huge impacts on slowing heart rates from anxiety and relieving stress.

So, when you smile at that stranger on the street, not only are you creating this wonderful chemical reaction inside yourself, but you are potentially doing the same in them – so long as they smile back, but odds are in your favor!

Doing Our Best

We may not be able to literally change the world and prevent 100% of mental health issues overnight, but smiling is an excellent step in the right direction. Because so many of us are struggling right now, commit to smiling to at least 4-5 people every day. Maybe those 4-5 people are the same ones struggling with anxiety or depression. At the very least, you are doing the best you can for your own mental well-being.

Of course, some mental health issues require intervention from a healthcare professional. If you are struggling or you know someone who needs extra support, please find a community resource or call the National Suicide Hotline.

Committed to Smiles

For now, our team in San Antonio at Nacogdoches will continue doing what we do best – work on giving people the smile of their dreams. If you want to reveal a whiter or healthier smile, there has never been a better time. Schedule an appointment today and together we can spread a little happiness!

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