Whenever I tell my depressed clients they should try smiling and laughing more, they sometimes roll their eyes and look at me like I’m crazy. Of course when one is feeling depressed, the last thing he or she feels like doing is smiling. That’s understandable – smiling and laughing when you don’t feel happy feels ridiculous at best. HOWEVER, it is likely to help you feel better!
It’s commonly known that smiling and laughing release endorphins which help a person feel happy and more positive overall. And those endorphins are powerful. Within the medical vernacular, they are known as polypeptides which are made by the pituitary gland. When they are released, they chemically reduce stress and feelings of pain. Depression is often brought on by chronic stress and pain. So sustaining endorphin activity is extremely important when battling depression because endorphin activity increases dopamine. Many anti-depressant drugs are actually designed to increase dopamine production. Isn’t it nice to know that you can increase dopamine production all by yourself simply by smiling and laughing more often?!
There is a glut of research on the Internet (and in research-based psychological journals) about the ways smiling can improve your overall health. For example, research has shown that smiling (especially smiling that leads to laughter) can relieve body aches and chronic pain. Other scholarly research suggests that smiling can actually strengthen your immune system and lower blood pressure. I definitely don’t want to (i.e., can’t) explain how that works, but you can look it up if you’re curious. Obviously, smiling and laughter relieves stress but it doesn’t take a scientist to validate that. And take it from a therapist, smiling and laughter can definitely improve your relationships. Anger and sadness can push people away whereas happiness draws others to us.
So….if you are currently depressed and want to do something for yourself to feel a little better, try smiling and laughing. It’s an easy tool to use to manage symptoms of depression.