Our smile is a powerful tool not only in how it makes us feel but also the message and feelings it conveys to others we share our smiles with.

So humour me for a bit and smile – go on do it, a real one, not one of those fake ones when you just turn the corners of your mouth up, but a true one when you can feel the muscles around your eyes engaging too. Perhaps think about something or someone that is special to you and makes you want to smile. How does it make you feel? For me, I feel the tension release, my shoulders relax and a calming and warm glow. My mood seems to lighten. Why is this?

When you truly smile you are actually releasing feel-good neurotransmitters, chemicals which facilitate messages between the brain and nerves. These feel-good neurotransmitters are called dopamine, endorphins and serotine. They help to relax the body and can lower the heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, the endorphins act as a natural painkiller and the serotine can help lift moods. So you see a smile can have many positive benefits for you.

However, as we progress from childhood to adulthood our smiles appear less. Researchers have found that children smile on average 400 times a day, while the average adult only 20 times a day. An infant's smile can have a huge impact, I can remember amongst my own family when we were going through particularly sad times like the loss of a relative we adopted an unspoken rule that whoever was struggling at that moment would be handed the baby for a cuddle and smile, which always seem to give the person a lift. But why do we smile less as we get older? Is this because life has taken a toll and we aren’t so optimistic, we are facing increasing pressures and stresses of adult life or perhaps it’s because a smile may be viewed as being a weakness or not professional.

We’ve all come across those annoyingly happy people; you know the ones that always seem to be cheerful even first thing in the morning before coffee. But maybe they aren’t so annoying and just smart. Not only are they taking care of themselves but the impact their smile is having on others should not be underestimated.

We use our smile in many ways to communicate to others and to show how we feel. A smile can be a great gift. Think about when you have been nervous, felt out of your depth and someone has given you a friendly reassuring smile that lets you know that they support you and are encouraging you. Think about a time when you have been attracted to someone and they have just flashed you a smile, letting you know that they are open to talking to you.

When you smile at someone the brain treats this as a reward. When you make someone feel good they are more likely to respond to you in a positive way. A smile is contagious, we have all been in that situation when we feel blue but then have an interaction with someone even a complete strange who is happy and smiling and before we know it our mood has lifted and we’ve started smiling too.

Now hopefully you too like me have come to appreciate your smile.

• Smiling benefits you mentally and physically

• Smiling is like giving a gift to someone

• Smile because you are lucky you can

So who are you going to smile at today?

Give someone the gift of a smile and brighten your day and theirs.

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