Originally appeared in Planet Jackson Hole

What is the simplest, cost-free, in your control and proven way to instantly upgrade your health, your mood and the well-being of others? Smiling.

We all know when we are happy our natural response is to smile. It turns out the opposite is also true. Science has demonstrated that even when we are not feeling happy and choose to smile, even forcing a real smile, even a tiny upturn at the corner of your mouth, even faking it- this also dissolves stress and adds happiness. It is very hard to entertain negative thoughts while smiling. So, put on a happy face.

Smile biochemistry

Smiling activates the release of feel good biochemistry, including endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help by relaxing the body, lowering blood pressure, slowing the heart rate, relieving pain and elevating your mood. Smiling also activates the immune system, making the combination of all these benefits a dose of feeling good on all levels.

More findings

Flashing a smile also makes us appear more attractive to others. In research studies, subjects consistently rate the faces of smiling people as better looking. And people treat smiling people differently. When you smile others view you as safe, reliable, sincere, and approachable.

Smiling is contagious

When you see a smiling face it turns out you actually feel rewarded. Why? We already know it is pleasant and welcoming, but studies reveal that seeing an attractive smiling face activates the orbitofrontal cortex, the region in the brain that processes sensory rewards. Maybe this explains why most people like observing and interacting with babies and little kids: we are giving and receiving smiles. In addition, we unconsciously tend to mimic the facial expressions of others. Therefore, when you are smiling at someone, it's likely they can't help but return the smile. Or at least it takes a conscious effort to intercept the brain's signals to smile back.

The big picture

It has been said that if enough people in this world were laughing, smiling and happy for one full day, it would dispel negativity from the Earth. This could be a worthy global social media experiment.

At the very least, the next time you look in the mirror smile at your own image. Your grin will override any negative self-talk, you will enjoy a measurable uplift, and you can pass on the good vibes to others. PJH