How Smiling Goes Viral
A smile is also something that is easy to pass on. Much like yawning, smiling is contagious.
“This is because we have mirror neurons that fire when we see action,” says Dr. Eva Ritzo, a psychiatrist and the co-author of “The Beauty Prescription: The Complete Formula for Looking and Feeling Beautiful.” As its name suggests, mirror neurons enable us to copy or reflect the behavior we observe in others and have been linked to the capacity for empathy.
On a less mechanical level, there’s also the idea that when we see a smile, we want to reciprocate because we feel endeared.
“Smiling is contagious not just because of how a smile looks from the outside, but also because of the intention and the feeling that is put behind a smile,” says Jasmine Wang, communications manager at Smile Train, a charity providing corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates. “When someone smiles at you, you feel the good vibes from them, which makes you want to pass a smile on the next person, and so on and so forth. We should make a conscious effort not to take smiles from our loved ones for granted, and to keep in mind that across the globe a smile can mean so much more than a simple facial movement.”
A smile’s contagion is so potent, that we may even be able to catch one from ourselves. Dr. Ritzo recommends smiling at yourself in the mirror, an act she says not only triggers our mirror neurons, but can also help us calm down and re-center if we’re feeling low or anxious.
It turns out there’s solid evidence that smiling can do us a world of good. Smile!