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Ecstasy through Empathy
29. November 2018 at 18:03
With all these grinning going on in the world, it really does beg the all-important question: Is smiling contagious? Have you ever wondered how you could make someone’s day instantly better? Do you think of doing extravagant things such as treating that person his or her favorite food or maybe as simple as cracking a corny joke?
Actually, there is an infinite approach to transmitting happiness. But, do you know what the simplest way to make someone happy is? Without the use of money, the use of too much effort, the use of too much time, or whatsoever? Or do you even think that would be possible?

Tons of ways have been given on how to make a person happy. But certainly, the best is the simplest one. The easiest yet most effective way to spread glee is through smiling. Smile and the whole world really does smile with you. There’s science behind it.

Picture the scene: You’re walking down the street, minding your own business when a stranger passes you by. They don’t say anything at all, but they do give you the smallest, briefest smile. In an instant and almost unwillingly, you’re doing the same thing. Had this ever happened to you? With all these grinning going on in the world, it really does beg the all-important question: Is smiling contagious?

Well, according to a study from Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal, the answer is yes. Social psychologists, Paula Niedenthal and Adrienne Wood drew the conclusion that we “try on” the emotions of others when we are communicating with them. When we see a facial expression and we want to know what it means, we recreate that expression in our brain.

So, for example, when a friend tells us some gleeful news and looks happy and joyful, tendency is we unconsciously display the same emotion through our facial expression. In doing so, we trigger that same emotional state in ourselves, we then have a chance to better feel and understand their emotions, which then allows us to formulate an appropriate social response.

Nonetheless, we must take note that this transmission is not limited to smiles and happiness alone. Science Daily says that any expression is contagious, whether it be surprised, sad, or a mad one. Our brain tells our muscles to copy any expression in order to empathize and experience other’s feelings.

Now that we know the truth about smiles being contagious, we should not think twice on giving off smiles more frequently. It takes only 17 muscles to smile while 43 are used to frown. When a person sees another person smiling, his or her orbitofrontal cortex is activating, which processes sensory rewards, which is a good feeling.

Smiling also activates the release of neuropeptides, endorphins and serotonin which decrease stress levels, relax the body, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and serve as an antidepressant or mood lifter.

With all that being said, we could really say that transmitting happiness can be found in the littlest of things. Next time you walk down your street, don’t hesitate to be that stranger who gives off genuine smiles for others to subconsciously mimic. You can never know how much of a difference you could be making in their life at that moment. It is through this small social kink that we’re able to have a deep level of communication and comprehension with the people around us. So, always find a reason to smile. It may not add years to your life but it will surely add life to your years.
Cite This Article As: Bianca Ysabelle Baldemor. "Ecstasy through Empathy." International Youth Journal, 29. November 2018.

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