Is a smile as pleasurable as 2000 bars of chocolate? Or $25,000?

Smiling gives the brain as much pleasure as 2000 bars of chocolate, or $25,000.

Via Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act (TED Books):

Abundant research on facial feedback shows that smiling feels great. A group of researchers in the UK working with Hewlett-Packard Development Company, tried to quantify and make sense of what all this brain activity meant. They used an electromagnetic brain scan machine and heart rate monitor to establish “mood-boosting values” for various brain stimuli. They discovered that smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in very powerful and surprising ways. How did the power of a smile stack up against other “well-regarded” pleasure-inducing sensations? Depending on whose smile you see, the researchers found that one smile can be as pleasurable and stimulating as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate! And although it feels good to eat chocolate, some people may argue that receiving unexpected money for no work is not too shabby, either. The British researchers found that it takes a lot of money to beat out the most rewarding smiles that we see. In the case of this study, it took up to 16,000 pounds sterling in cash to generate the same level of brain stimulation as one smile! This is equivalent to about $25,000 per smile; not bad! :) And you can think about it this way: 400 x $25,000 = … by just being positive and present like a child (who smiles 400 times a day, remember), you can feel like a billionaire every fiscal quarter of the year.

I’m sure these estimates are rough at best and need to be qualified but it’s fun to try and develop a calculus for pleasure.

Along the same lines, research has shown:

Economists have done a good job of calculating what your relationships are worth in dollars:

  • Health: +$463,170
  • Better social life: +$131,232
  • Marriage: +$105,000
  • Seeing friends and family regularly: +$97,265
  • Divorce: -$34,000
  • Unemployment: -$114,248
  • Separation: -$255,000
  • Death of a spouse: -$308,780
  • (Life: $6-9million)

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