Fun For the Brain: How Smiling Can Slow Brain Aging

We’ve talked about playing computer games and dancing as great ways to give your brain a workout (click here to read about games and here for dancing). This week, we’re very happy to bring you… smiling! We were excited to learn that smiling can help us maintain cognitive function as we age.

 

When You’re Smiling . . .  

 

Imagine a joyful situation. As you think about it, brain neurons fire and cause muscles in your face to contract – and you break into a smile. Next, those smile muscles send feedback to your brain, which reinforces the feeling of happiness, thereby creating an ongoing, positive feedback loop.

The Facial Feedback Response Theory, developed by Charles Darwin, suggests that the act of smiling actually makes us feel better, rather than a smile simply being the result of feeling good. :-)

Darwin’s theory is supported by a 2009 study conducted at a university in Munich, Germany, which concluded that we can activate our brain’s positive feedback loop simply by smiling.

In 2012, a team of University of Kansas psychologists decided to test the capacity o smiling to reduce stress. Their research suggested that putting a smile on your face – especially a Duchenne smile, which activates your eye muscles as well as those around your mouth – can help reduce stress levels. They believe the connection between facial expression and mental state might have something to do with reduction in levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone that plays a part in the aging of the brain.

Throughout life, stress causes nerve cells to shrink and lose synapses -the connections between them. In younger brains, those connection repair. Researchers believe that in older brains, the rewiring process fails because we become less able to regulate cortisol levels, and so we are left with a decreased capacity to learn new things and, ultimately, with cognitive decline.

The bottom line: The more we can reduce stress by smiling, the more we might be able to keep our brains healthy.

 

Watch

 

Ron Gutman, founder of HealthTap, talks about “The Hidden Power of Smiling.”

 

Put On a Happy Face

 

A 2011 study from Sweden confirms that smiling is contagious: Seeing other people smile makes us smile. Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to frown when looking at someone smiling? Children smile the most – averaging about 400 times per day. In contrast, happy adults smile 40 to 50 times a day.

How can we smile more? Although humor is highly subjective, here are a few websites that are sure to make you crack up:

Lost In Translation

funny_translation

For the funniest bad translations, click here to see the Fail Blog’s “Bad English” posts.

You’ll find translations mixed with some hilarious signs from around the world by clicking here.

Funniest Babies 

Click here to watch a set of toddler twins have a “conversation.”

One of the funniest babies on the Internet can’t stop laughing over… ripping paper. Click here to watch.

And watch this video of a baby who’s not sure what to make of his mother blowing her nose:

 

Good Things Gone Wrong

CakeWrecks.com’s tag line is “When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong.”  It’s about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places.  Click here for graduation cake theme posts.

Funny Animals

LOLDogs.net contains smile-inducing dog videos. Click here to take a look.

And not to leave out cat-lovers who want a smile, there is GrumpyCats.com – click here.

 

Which websites put a smile on your face?  Please share them in the comments below.

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