“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Smiling is a great way to open yourself up, meet new people, and feel more beautiful. But as we get older, our smiles change, and it can make you feel more self-conscious to open up and grin. It doesn’t need to! Smiling says a lot about us. Even better, it comes with plenty of health benefits you might not have expected. Not only does it make you more attractive, and help you feel happier, even when you feel sure you’re not in the mood, but it also has tangible effects on your immune system and blood pressure!
So put on a smile, and do yourself, and the world, some good!
Lowers Your Heart Rate
Smiling helps you relax, and lowers your heart rate. It can even temporarily reduce blood pressure. Researchers from the University of Kansas had college students keep chopsticks in their mouths to force a smile, and left others with a more neutral expression. On inducing stressful situations, they discovered that the people with a smile on their faces had a lower heart rate. What this suggests is that even if you’re not happy, forcing a grin can help you lower your stress response. That’s good news for anyone who might worry about heart health. You don’t need to feel happy to reap the heart-healthy benefits of a grin.
One of the reasons that smiling may lower your heart rate is that specific facial muscles may have the ability to send the message to your brain that you are happy, and can stay calm. This has plenty of benefits for your health, including lowering your stress response.
Less cortisol on the brain means you’re able to concentrate for longer and retain information better. Chronic stress can even shrink your prefrontal cortex, which could have long-term effects on how you learn and retain information in the future. If you’re someone who struggles with panic attacks or anxiety, smiling more often can even lower your risk of panic attacks!
Can Improve Your Mood
As you smile more, the neural message is that you’re feeling good. The dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin that are released when you smile are all the happy hormones your brain naturally produces when you’re cheerful. That means, even if you don’t feel like it, a bright, happy smile can actually help boost your mood. Of course, there are hormonal reasons this is true, but it’s also got a great social component. The idea that smiles are contagious isn’t just a cute saying. The more you smile, the more likely someone is to smile back.
Can Boost Your Immune System
Thanks to that lowered stress component we were talking about, smiling more can boost your immune system. The hormones that are released when you smile have positive impacts on the stress in your brain. Since stress can lower your immune system, smiling more often can actually impact positively on your ability to fight off viruses and infection. Several studies have shown that people with happier and more positive mindsets do better coping with everything from vaccine responses, simple colds, and even cancer. In this case, though, it doesn’t seem to work as well when the smiles are faked. However, you can train yourself to smile more often through the tough stuff, by focusing on positive memories.
Improves Pain Tolerance
They say laughter is the best medicine. The impact that smiling has on your stress levels can help you deal with pain. Recently, a team of Swiss researchers reported that laughter and humor can dramatically increase pain tolerance. This works for both big and small aches, whether it’s part of medical procedures, or simply sticking your hands in ice water.
Laughter relaxes your body, which helps relieve muscle tension. Lowered stress responses also play a role. These findings have led researchers to suggest that laughter therapy should be used as part of a pain management program for sufferers of chronic pain, and as part of rehabilitation therapy after an injury, including surgery. Next time you stub your toe, instead of the usual cursing, try breaking out a smile. See what it does to your pain tolerance!
Smiling can help you strengthen relationships! It’s not just contagious, prompting others around you to smile back. Smiles also help us establish trust. Whether it’s your partner, family or friends, or just a stranger you’re hoping to connect with, a smile presents you as an open and positive person, which helps develop a strong sense of trust, and creates more positive interactions. As a bonus, some research points to the idea that more positive people, who smile more often, are more attractive, and even look healthier. Even if your smile isn’t perfect!
Overall, smiling can improve your life, your health, and your outlook. If you’re self-conscious about your smile, try to work on conjuring up positive emotions and memories. Research shows that even though you can get the same health benefits from a fake smile, the benefits to your mood and the way others react to you work better if they’re more authentic. Using a whitening toothpaste can help brighten up your smile if you’re not comfortable flashing a grin at strangers. Also, the right foods for dental health can make a huge difference. Whatever it takes, the benefits of smiling make it clear. We should all be smiling to ourselves, and others, as much as possible!
You may feel self-conscious about your smile. But a bright, open smile does more than help you feel more confident. It can impact your health, your stress levels, and your appearance for the better. And that can have huge impacts on your life. So fake it till you make it. Put on a smile, and let the good times roll!