People communicate emotion through the whole body, but the face facilitates the most effective emotional communication in social interactions. Facial expressions share the broadest range of emotional and intentional states, and people of all ages, races, and ethnicities respond to facial expressions with spontaneous and involuntary facial movements. This universal responsive behavior is called facial mimicry.
Facial mimicry activates mirror neurons in the brain and triggers feelings and behaviors. Although our face expresses a wide range of emotions, a smiling face is the most rewarding expression in humans around the world. A smiling face is globally interpreted as attractive, kind, inviting, and trusting.
A smiling face activates areas in the brain associated with prosocial and goal-directed behaviors. Smiles activate brain activity in the observer proven to increase motivation and approach behaviors. This activation also creates brain changes that promote learning and social bonding. Conversely, negative facial expressions like frowning trigger brain activity related to avoidant and hard-wired protective actions that reduce engagement, social connection, initiative, and motivation.
Humans thrive in environments that provide positive emotional communication and smiles. Furthermore, research shows laughter is even more potent in sparking motivation and positive behaviors. Studies show people who create more opportunities for laugher are viewed to be better leaders than those who do not. Laughter activates parts of our brain that promote focus, motivation, and bonding. Laughter significantly increases patterns of goal-directed behaviors and feeling connected to others.
Scientifically speaking, laughter truly is the best medicine.