And now for something that will really put a smile on your face. Not only are smiles free—they also have the ability to do all sorts of positive things for our health and wellness, according to Portman Health, a UK-based dental provider.
Sadly, the average adult only cracks a smile about 20-times in a single day. That’s compared to infants who smile an average of 400 times daily. Do yourself a favor and turn that frown upside down more often for a happier, healthier life…
Smiling Releases Endorphins
Sure, most of us smile when we experience joy. However, the act of smiling is a proven cognitive response that triggers the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin—which not only make you feel great, but also work as natural pain relievers.
Karen Kleiman, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Founder and Executive Director of The Postpartum Stress Center, LLC, in Philadelphia, provides treatment for patients with prenatal and postpartum depression. Her research shows that the “feel good” endorphins released with a full smile (or a Duchenne smile that engages all of the facial muscles) creates positive physiological changes in the body.
Smiling is Contagious
You might consider yawning or sneezing the only contagious action. It is difficult to help yawning in response when you witness someone else doing it first. However, science tells us that smiling is also a natural reflex reaction to happiness and pleasing settings—meaning the very act of smiling itself makes you happy…and being happy makes you smile. This is how the positive cycle is created.
In fact, research published in Psychology Today found that there is an automatic human attraction to people who smile. So not only does smiling affect your own mood (for the better); it also makes us far more attractive to other people.
Smiling Boosts Heart Health
According to a group of psychological scientists at the University of Kansas, smiling aids the ability to recover from all sorts of general life stress. The scientists monitored a group of 169 participants who were asked to take one of 3 facial expressions—remain neutral, force a smile (by holding a chopstick in the mouth), or genuinely smile (a full Duchenne smile).
The scientists monitored heart rates while placing the participants under increased levels of stress (i.e., noise, putting hands in cold water, etc.). Findings showed that while the smiling (both forced and genuine) reduce the body’s stress response and lowered heart rate and blood pressure significantly, the genuine smiling participants recovered from the stress at much faster rates.
Smile to Strengthen Immunity
It turns out that laughter (or smiling a lot) is indeed the best medicine when it comes to lowering the risk of cancer and several other chronic diseases (i.e., diabetes, arthritis, and several autoimmune diseases). Research published by the National Institutes of Health linked positive emotions and pleasant stimuli (happiness, joy, laughter, and smiling) to increased immune response and a decrease in the production of salivary cortisol.
The study also revealed that pleasant emotions experienced by the brain increased the secretions of immunoglobulin A (a mucosal antibody used by the immune system to identify and kill bacteria and viruses). When you consider that the brain largely influences the immune system, a wide network that impacts all other systems in your body, you can understand how overall health will topple like dominos should immune function be compromised.
Smile for Success
I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “The pessimist finds difficulty in every opportunity, [and] the optimist finds opportunity in every difficulty.” According to a research study from Penn State University, this means that those who smile often are more successful.
Think about how smiling more often could benefit your career. The more you smile, the more you fight your brain’s natural propensity for negativity. In essence, smiling rewires the brain to adopt positive patterns vs. negative patterns. And happiness is a powerful thing in the world of business. After all, it creates an air of happiness, satisfaction, inner peace, and success around you that others are naturally attracted to.
Happiness Adds Years to Your Life
If you ask Dr. Laura Kubzansky, an Associate Professor of society, human development, and health at the Harvard School of Public Health, if happy people live longer, you will get a resounding yes in response. Dr. Kubzanky led a 2007 study that found numerous health benefits to adopting an optimistic outlook on life.
After monitoring 6,000 men and women between the ages of 25 to 74-years old over a 20-year period, Dr. Kubzanky discovered that emotional happiness, enthusiasm, strong social bonds, positivity, and life engagement extended life. In particular, those with an optimistic outlook were far less prone to unsafe behavior, addiction, and overeating. They also decreased their overall risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and tended to live happier, healthier, longer lives.