Many of us are aware of the latest health fads; the ketogenic diet, super-foods, float tanks and even Netflix and chill (I’m sure that has health benefits), but how often do we pay attention to the time-honoured humble smile? It’s been around for centuries, so shouldn’t we be giving it the attention it deserves?
Personally, I smile quite a lot. I realised that in my early twenties when my nickname at work became ‘Smiler’. For someone who had been called ‘Ostrich’, by the boys in my street while growing up, this was a vast improvement. I’m not sure whether it’s in my genes or a learnt behaviour. Both my parents were not particularly happy people, whereas, in contrast, my grandparents were. My Grandmother’s smile reached right into my heart, it was as if each time, she’d scooped me up in a warm blanket of love. My Grandfather, he had a cheeky grin and loved a joke. Spending time with them was, and always will be, precious to me. I think they nurtured my smile and I’ve used it often on my life’s journey.
Life can throw us few curve balls now and again and being able to smile our way through them can be a useful tool in our toolbox. Essentially, I’m talking about a genuine smile here, though on some occasions even a forced one, as long as you execute it properly, can reap rewards. Surprisingly, only six of the nineteen different types of smile happen when we are having a good time. The other thirteen, are cloaks hiding negative emotions and pain. That issue, although very important, will have to be another blog, another time.
For now, let’s find out why brandishing that beam is so good for you and for your well-being.
1. Smiling helps you think more positively
Studies have shown that smiling when doing something that you don’t necessarily like, helps you to feel much more positive about it than if you weren’t smiling.
Darwin originally developed this theory, which is now known as the Facial Feedback Response Theory. What it basically means, is that your brain recognises the movement of your facial muscles, so when they are in the ‘smile’ position it thinks that you are happy which helps you to think positively about the situation.
So next time you want to lift that optimism level a notch, break out a full-bodied beam. One that causes the sides of your mouth to curl up and the skin around your eyes to crinkle. That way, your brain gets the message that you are happy and it will help you have a more positive outlook.
2. Smiling makes you more attractive
Ladies, did you know that the most important thing in your makeup bag is your smile?
The study, ‘Something to Smile About‘, found,
… that the evaluation of attractiveness is strongly influenced by the intensity of a smile expressed on a face: A happy facial expression could even compensate for relative unattractiveness.
Therefore, it’s not so much the colour of our lipstick but what are lips are doing that counts. Another article I came upon, discussed how a dating app, Coffee and Bagel, found that women who smiled and tilted their head to the side in a photo, appeared even more attractive! Something to bear in mind for your profile pics and for those of you using dating sites and apps.
Smiling not only makes you look more attractive but also healthier. What’s even more interesting, and this is especially for those more mature ladies among us, researchers at Swansea University found that:
…while younger adults look healthier when they smile, older adults look much healthier. A smile was a more important cue than how old the face appeared to be. … Scientific proof that a smile really is the best accessory. – Dr. Alex Jones
3. Smiling is contagious
Most often when you smile at someone, they smile back. Little neurons in our brain are wired to imitate another person smiling as it helps us assess how that person is feeling. We are also emotional human beings and most of us want to reciprocate a smile.
Sometimes we are too wrapped up in what we are doing to even register that someone has smiled at us. I know I can be miles away in my own little world and then realise too late that someone smiled as they have already passed me. I then feel bad for not smiling back. A good reminder to be present and live in the now.
4. Smiling makes you happier
When we smile, even if it’s fake, our brain releases serotonin, which is a natural anti-depressant. Along with the release of endorphins, our brains are pumping us full of these natural ‘drugs’ and gettings us high on happiness.
Ron Gutman, the author of, Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act, gave a fascinating Ted Talk, on the Hidden Power of Smiling. He refers to studies that have found a smile to be as stimulating as 2000 bars of chocolate, meaning that the pleasure of smiling far outweighs that from chocolate. Personally, I think they may have used the wrong chocolate bars. That said, if smiling made me feel as good as chocolate, it would definitely save the waistline. The day a smile comes with a smooth, creamy, delicious taste too, then I might buy into that piece of research.
5. A smile is a universal language
A gesture we all understand across the world is a smile. It is something we all do innately and is not something that we learn to do. For example, babies who are blind smile at their parent’s voice. In the words of the late writer and poet, William Arthur Ward;
A warm smile is a universal language of kindness.
That said though, how we perceive a smile is learnt and that perception can vary between cultures. Charlene Solomon writes an interesting article on, The Cross-cultural Implications of Smiling, surmising that countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia have smiling cultures whereas countries like China, Russia, and Japan do not.
This is something to bear in mind if you are travelling to other countries. Throughout our travels, in Europe, we have had many a time where a smile has warmed our hearts and made us feel welcome, even when we shared no common language. There have also been occasions where our smiles have been met with stone cold faces. Sometimes this is an individual thing but can also be reflective of the specific culture.
In the main though, smiling brightens the day of most of us across the world.
6. Smiling can make you look more intelligent
Studies have found that smiling makes you more attractive and as a consequence, you are more likely to be thought of as intelligent.
A more recent marketing study suggests that the size of your smile can affect that perception. They found that a subtle smile makes you look intelligent compared to a wide one.
A wider grin, although not so good for the appearance of intelligence, suggests to others, that you are warmer and kinder.
Apparently, Facebook photos of those with wider, broader smiles are shared twice as much. But if you are trying to raise money through Crowdfunding, go for a subtle smile as people are more likely to donate and give more if they see you as more competent.
7. Smiling is free
There aren’t too many valuable assets today, that don’t have a price tag attached to them. This is one area that does not need your budgeting attention. So, don’t be frugal with your smiles, use them to your heart’s content.
8. Smiling can boost your immune system
Smiling releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals) which in turn, causes a reduction of cortisol (your stress hormones). As a result, this means that your body is more effective in fighting off infections. To get the most benefit it should be a genuine smile and not a fake one – think of something that makes you laugh or something that genuinely makes you smile and your immune system will get a welcome boost.
9. Smiling is quick and easy
So many of us seem to be time poor, so this is one thing that won’t be a drain on that finite resource. A smile takes less than a few seconds but can brighten a whole day.
10. Smiling can improve your relationships
When you smile, other people automatically think you are more likeable and warm towards you much quicker.
One study looked at the smiles of college students in their yearbook photos, measured their smiles and then assessed their lives in later life. The study concluded, that those with bigger smiles went on to have happier and longer marriages.
We all like being liked and just a simple act of smiling a little more can make a big difference in how you get along with others.
11. Smiling is environmentally friendly
This simple act does nothing but improve your environment. No trees are cut down, no plastic is wasted and a smile is completely reusable, time and time again. Smiling is sustainability at its best!
12. Smiling can lead to promotion
Smilers are perceived as more confident and sociable. Ultimately that means that the more you smile, the more likely you will be picked for promotion.
13. Smiling can lower stress
Next time you are feeling stressed, pop on a smile to let the tension ease away.
The aptly named, ‘Grin and Bear it’ study, showed that if a person smiles and undergoes a stressful activity then they have a lower heart rate and their recovery from the stress is quicker. Again, these results achieved the most success when it was a genuine smile, but just having the face in a smiling pose, decreased the stress in comparison to no smile at all
14. Smiling helps you live longer
It’s quite possible that smiling could add quite a few years to your life. Just another testament to how smiling and positivity are so good for you and your wellbeing.
The wider your smile and the more laughter lines you have, the longer you are likely to live according to this study. They measured the smiles of baseball players and then compared these with their lifespan. The study concluded that smiling could add 5 to 8 years to your life.
It’s such a simple thing to do and with such huge gains – get those wide grins going and crinkle up those eyes for a longer lifetime of fun and happiness.
15. Smiling can be a pain reliever
Smiling while experiencing pain lessens the effect of the pain. Studies show that pain can be reduced by up to about 40%. Not a bad natural remedy to have available right there on tap.
16. Your smile is a gift
When someone smiles at you, you get a kind of warm fuzzy feeling. That happens because our brains see it as a reward.
So smiling doesn’t just feel good for you, that great feeling transfers on to someone else. In addition, when they smile back at you, you get an extra boost too! …and so it goes on. The gift that just keeps on giving.
Mother Theresa said,
‘We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.’
So, go ahead and give yourself a gift right now. The more you do it, the more it becomes a natural habit and part of your mindset.
When I was a teacher, I gave my primary school students a little smiley face badge, and we talked about how smiling and thinking about a happy time can make all the difference to how you feel.
So many came up to me after they had left my class and told me that they still kept that little badge as a reminder and used their smile to help themselves and others. It really makes your heart swell when you know you have helped give them such a precious tool to use in life.
Smiling is not only wonderful for your own wellbeing, but so many others welfare too. Due to its remarkable ripple effect, we have the power to spread the joy and change the world, one smile at a time.
Come back any time for travel inspiration and ideas, or our musings on life’s journey.
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Until next time – take care and remember to do that which ‘Satisfies Your Soul’.
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After finishing my Law Degree I decided to become a teacher. I am passionate about teaching, learning and most of all, about inspiring others. Now, as a writer and blogger, I love sharing our travels and our musings on life’s journey. I hope, through these, we can play a part in inspiring you to do whatever ‘satisfies your soul’.