If I invented a pill that would improve your mood, reduce your stress, help you fight off diseases, make you look better and cause other people to think better of you, I could simply book my year-long around the world vacation and make plans for a long and luxurious retirement. People would pay handsomely for my Magic Pill.
Well, you can keep your wallets closed (and I’ll have to postpone my big trip) because all of these benefits are available to you right now, for free.
Scientific studies have confirmed that smiling provides all of the benefits I listed . . . and more.
You don’t even need special smile training to receive the benefits. We are all born knowing how to smile.
Anyone can do it, too. Smiling is universal. All people smile in the same language.
9 Ways Smiling Benefits You
When you smile . . .
1. Your mood improves
The act of smiling dramatically improves mood and increases happiness.
And it doesn’t even have to be a real, genuine smile. A fake smile will do.
Something called the Facial Feedback Hypothesis says that facial expressions associated with an emotion trigger changes in your body that are similar to those that happen when you experience the actual emotion.
That means that your brain cannot tell the difference between a posed smile and a genuine smile. A posed smile will elicit, physiologically, the same pleasure or happiness response as a genuine smile. Your facial muscles cue your brain to experience that positive emotion.
Here’s another way of saying it . . .
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile. But sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
2. Your blood pressure is lowered
There is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure when you smile. You can prove this by taking your blood pressure before and after smiling for a few moments.
3. Your stress reduces
Smiling and slowing your breathing can keep stress from increasing and actually help reduce it. This is because smiling causes your body to release endorphins, serotonin and other “feel good” natural substances.
4. Your immune system is boosted
People who are optimistic (and these are the people who are out there smiling!) have stronger immune systems and are actually able to fight off illness better than pessimists.
According to Christopher Peterson, Ph.D, a University of Michigan professor who’s been studying optimism’s link to health for over two decades, “”The research is very clear. This is not some social science generalization. There is a link between optimistic attitudes and good health. It has been measured in a variety of ways. Overall, we have found that optimistic people are healthier. Their biological makeup is different. They have a more robust immune system.”
5. You look better!
The muscles we use to smile lift our face, making us appear younger.
Moreover, smiles just look better. A research study by Orbit Complete discovered that a whopping 69% of people find a makeup-free, smiling face more attractive than a makeup-wearing, non-smiling one.
6. You Seem More Successful
According to one study, people who frequently smile are perceived to be more in control, at ease and attractive than those who don’t.
7. You Sound Better
Smiling can even affect the way one person is received by another over the phone.
A study conducted by Amy Drahota concluded that smiling during a phone conversation gave a cue which helped the person listening interpret the speaker. Pretty cool, huh?
8. You Could Earn More Money
Studies have shown that those in service industries, such as waiters and waitresses, receive more tips if they smile at their customers.
But, wait, there’s more! (I always wanted to say that.)
9. You may live longer!
According to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, elderly optimistic people (those who expected good things to happen rather than bad things) were less likely to die than pessimists.
In fact, after researchers adjusted the results for age, smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity and other measures of health, the optimists were 71 percent less likely to die than the pessimists!
In another study, pictures taken of baseball players in 1952 showed that those who were smiling outlived their non-smiling counterparts by seven years.
Smiling Benefits Those Around You, Too
This gets even better. Smiling not only benefits you in all these ways, but it also benefits those around you.
Through a fascinating process called mimicry, people instinctively react to seeing a smile by smiling themselves.
In one study done in Sweden, when exposed to happy faces, participants moved their zygomatic major muscle (the primary muscle used in smiling). (On the other hand, when exposed to sad faces, participants moved their corrugator supercilii muscle whichi s used in frowning.)
And, not only do we mimic smiles, we also adopt the emotion they represent!
This process is also known as emotional contagion. That is, emotions are contagious. Feeling good is infectious.
According to a researcher from Lund University in Sweden, mimicking a person’s bodily state or facial expression causes physical responses in the receiver’s body that are identical to those in the sender’s. That is, when people activate muscle groups that link to specific emotions, their body will react as though they are really experiencing that emotion. If you mimic a smile by lifting the creases of your lips and squinting your eyes, your body will release serotonin, dopamine and other “feel-good” neuortransmitters.
Characteristics Of A Trustworthy Smile
A trustworthy smile has a slow onset. That is, it takes about half a second to spread across the face. One piece of research has found that in comparison to a fast onset smile (about a tenth of a second to spread), slow onset smiles are judged more trustworthy, authentic and even more flirtatious.
There’s even a name for a genuine smile. Psychologists call it a Duchenne smile, named after the French physician Guillanne Duchenne. This involves smiling with the mouth and crinkling around the corners of your eyes. (A polite functional smile is known as a ‘Pan American smile’, and involves stretching the mouth, but doesn’t use the eyes.)