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How Smiling Affects Mental Health

"Why don't you smile in your pictures?" 16-year-old Connie from Justin, Texas, was asked this question so often on social media that she finally stopped posting selfies on her Facebook and lnstagram accounts.

"It was exhausting, being told to smile all the time," she says. "How could I explain that I hate my smile without sounding weird?"

Connie is not alone. According to a OnePoll study, more than half of Americans feel selfconscious about their smile. Just look at the stats below:

  • 61 % of Americans wish they could change the way they look when they smile.
  • 57% of Americans try to hide their mouths when they smile. (62% of young adults between the ages of 25-44 have confessed they do this.)
  • 1 out of 2 Americans try to smile with their mouth closed , so as not to expose their teeth.
  • 7 out of 10 people admit that criticisms about their smile comes from close friends and family.

That's a whole lot of insecurity about one of the best mental health exercises we can do with our muscles: smile!

As science has incontrovertibly proved, smiling isn't all about social pleasantries. It isn't always about seeming ' nice' and approachable to others.

That's a whole lot of insecurity about one of the best mental health exercises we can do with our muscles: smile!

The mere act of using our facial muscles to smile has a domino effect on our mental health, sending chemical pulses across various neurological pathways in the brain to improve mood, mental energy levels and even self-confidence.

Yes, it's a fact that smiling affects how we feel. Let's look at some of the ways:

How Smiling Triggers Bio Messaging In The Brain

When you smile, it isn't just the appearance of your face that undergoes a temporary change. An army of bio messengers get to work as well.

There are molecules called neuropeptides, for instance, that decrease stress levels in the mind and body. Additionally, you may feel more relaxed and calm , even if you don't notice the subtle transition that takes place at the moment.

Neurotransmitters, like endorphins, serotonin , and dopamine (often referred to as ' happy hormones') get activated. Increased presence of endorphins in the blood act as a mild pain reliever. Serotonin helps to alleviate anxiety and mild depression, along with disturbed sleep patterns and lack of appetite.

Dopamine rewards the pleasure center in our brain. Just as dopamine is released with a rush of happy feelings when we do something we enjoy (like eating or shopping), the act of smiling also signals dopamine to release in the system and uplift our mood each time.

As you smile more, these mood-improving chemicals also begin circulating more in your body, and over time you notice you're feeling less anxious and more energized mentally than you may have in the recent past. The brain fog begins to lift, and spontaneity takes its place to lighten up your outlook on your day, your week, your life.

Totally worth it, isn't it, to try and smile more?

Encourage Your Children to Be Confident in Their Smile

Confidence building exercises should begin early in life when children are still trying to find their place within the fabric of their social surroundings.

Most parents are prepared to live through the agony of teething alongside their babies. Then they celebrate the loss of baby teeth with tooth fairies and coins left under the pillow.

But once adult teeth start to come in , they think the dental coming-of-age chapter is done and dusted. Typically, it is not so. Even as the body is changing during growing up year, so are the teeth, undergoing shifts that must be monitored carefully to make sure that all is well in the dental department.

Being self-conscious about dental health issues like bad breath, braces, crooked teeth , discolored teeth, gaps in the teeth, etc. are all things that can engender shame and embarrassment among kids that parents are often not even aware of.

  • Talk to them about why smiling is important for both physical and mental health. Explain that it's a way to show happiness, feel good within and present a confident face to the world.
  • Help them understand that everyone's smile is unique and special. Just like a fingerprint, no two smiles are exactly alike.
  • Encourage them to practice smiling in front of a mirror. This will help them get comfortable with their own smile.
  • It is important to ensure that dental health and corrective orthodontics (if any are needed) take place with the advice of a reputable pediatric dentist near you as soon as possible.
  • Children who need braces often feel ashamed of their smile. They may feel like they are ugly or that their teeth are dirty. Your pediatric dentist can help talk to your child in such a way that he/she fully understands the value of straight teeth in later life, and why braces are not something to be ashamed of.
  • Take them to see the dentist regularly. A professional cleaning and checkup can help identify any issues that may be affecting discoloration of their teeth.

Give your children one of the best gifts in life: teach them to smile.

Got questions? Let us know! Call the Duffy Dental Ranch at 940.278.0909 or use this contact form.