Want to live a longer, happier life and inspire others to do the same? There’s a simple trick you need to know:
Smiling provides a host of benefits, from physiological to emotional improvements. A smile can make your day or make your career. Because smiles are contagious, smiling to others is a great way to get them to smile back, and then everyone benefits.
We’ve drummed up fifteen reasons to smile. Keep reading to get happy!
#1: Smiling is Good for Your Heart
Heart disease is the top cause of death–for men and women. Smiling is good for your heart though, because not only does it lower your heart rate, but it also lowers your blood pressure.
Even if you’re in a stressful situation and you can’t think of a reason to smile, force a grin anyway. A University of Kansas study showed forcing a fake smile helped lower subject’s heart rates.
Imagine what a genuine smile could do.
Not feeling a fake smile? Prompt a real one by whipping out your phone (if it’s safe to do so, for example when you’re not driving), and watch YouTube videos of cats or dogs. They’re bound to put a smile on your face.
#2: Smile More to Lower Stress Hormones
Hormones can be a friend or foe. When in balance, the stress hormone–cortisol–offers the body many benefits:
- Controls blood sugar levels
- Regulates metabolism
- Reduces inflammation
- Helps form memories
- Balances salt and water in cells, and therefore blood pressure
- Supports fetus development in pregnant women
Like any hormone though, these benefits get thrown out the window when the cortisol balance in our bodies is out of whack.
Too much cortisol can lead to problems like Cushing syndrome, osteoporosis, mood swings, changes in libido and menstrual cycles, anxiety, and depression. Not enough cortisol is also a problem, which can lead to Addison disease, an autoimmune disease caused by primary adrenal insufficiency.
#3: Smiling Boosts Endorphins and Serotonin
Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter that make us feel good because they relieve pain. If you’re a runner, you may have experienced a runner’s high. This is a spike in endorphins from exercise.
Feels good, right?
Smiling does the same thing. (We’re not suggesting that you skip your workouts and smile instead.) As if releasing endorphins isn’t enough, smiling also releases serotonin, another feel-good neurotransmitter.
To get the maximum benefits, make sure you’re smiling with a genuine smile. That means you need to show some teeth, engage the muscles in your face, and try to get that smile to sparkle in your eyes. This is known as the Duchenne smile.
Don’t be afraid to go for some crow’s feet.
#4: Smile More to Strengthen Your Immune System
Your immune system takes into account so many factors, from diet to exercise, from getting enough sleep to your emotions. Yup, you read that right–your emotions can influence the health of your immune system.
We’ve never heard of a better reason to be happy, especially during cold and flu season.
Because smiling reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and improve the mood, it enhances the immune system. How many times have you been feeling low emotionally, only to get sick soon after?
Smile more and try to think of it as a preemptive measure like getting enough vitamin C in your diet, exercising thirty minutes a day, and getting a good night’s sleep. Add smiling to your daily regimen to keep those bad bugs at bay.
#5: Smile More to Lessen Pain
You’ve seen above how smiling can make you feel happier, but what about chasing away physical pain?
If you’ve ever gotten a shot at the doctor’s office and the doctor said something to make you smile and laugh, it’s not just good bedside manner. Your doc understands that when you smile, your entire body relaxes. When relaxed, your body can tolerate more pain.
A University of California study showed that people who smiled at the doctor’s office reported feeling 40% less pain than those who didn’t smile.
In addition to lower heart rates, the smiling subjects’ skin conductance improved. Skin conductance is a phenomenon wherein the skin conducts electricity better when there are physiological stimuli.
In other words, pain, a stimulus, causes the skin to conduct electricity better. Those who smiled during this study conducted less electricity, meaning the stimulus (pain) was less noticeable.
They smiled it away.
#6: Smile More to Live Longer
What if you could add up to seven years to your life, free of charge? Free of medical costs? It turns out, you can.
Wayne University researchers studied 230 baseball cards to prove that smiling leads to a longer life. Here’s what they did:
- They categorized and cataloged the smile lines and crow’s feet (proof of a Duchenne smile) on baseball players in all 230 cards
- In the 184 cards of players who had since died, those who didn’t smile lived an average of 72.9 years
- Those who partially smiled lived an average of 75 years
- The players who wore a Duchenne smile lived an average of 79.9 years
Seven years of extra life is a great reason to get your grin on.
#7: Smiling Makes Us Look Younger
Smile lines. Crow’s feet. Aren’t we supposed to keep these from forming on our face to make us look younger?
The act of smiling makes us look younger, though, so it might be worth it to form those lines over time. A study showed pictures of smiling people and people who weren’t smiling. Subjects thought the smilers were younger.
When we smile, we create temporary lines on our face. The subjects in the study couldn’t tell the difference between temporary and permanent lines.
The takeaway from this research is to go ahead and smile, and people will perceive you as younger than your years.
#8: Smiling Makes You Seem Trustworthy
Think about the Grinch–you know, the one who stole Christmas. He had to sneak around and steal all the presents and decorations from Whoville because he wasn’t trustworthy.
However, when Cindy Lou Who spots him, he smiles at her and gives her a candy cane. She trusts him and goes back to bed.
If a smile can make even the Grinch seem trustworthy, then imagine what it can do for you. Of course, we all know the Grinch turned out okay in the end when his heart grew and he smiled for real.
If you smile more, you’ll give off a good vibe, which comes across to others as friendly, kind, and trustworthy.
#9: Smile More to Amp Up Confidence
Imagine you’re in school and you have a test coming up. In scenario A, you haven’t studied at all, save for a ten-minute cram session right before the exam. In scenario B, you studied for twenty minutes every night for two weeks leading up to the test.
Which scenario is more likely to make you smile? The second one, because you’re prepared and confident.
This example shows how being confident makes you smile…but does it work the other way? Let’s look at another example–the job interview.
If you smile during a job interview, even if you’re feeling nervous or shy, you’ll come across as more confident. More confident applicants may be more likely to get the job. After you land the role, you might start to feel more confident.
Not only can smiling make you seem more confident, it can also make you more confident.
#10: Smiling Increases Productivity
Happier workers are more productive workers, even when they’re crazy busy. Think back to a job you really despised. Chances are we’ve all had them–how productive were you?
You probably did just what was required of you and nothing more. You did just enough to get by, get your paycheck, and get out of dodge before the weekend.
Now, think about a job you’ve enjoyed doing. Did you ever go above and beyond? Did you find it easier to focus on your work? Did you smile more?
Those who are happy at work spend 80% of their week on work-related tasks. Unhappy workers only spend 40% of their week on work-related tasks. Additionally, happy employees take 66% less sick leave.
The bottom line is this: If you can find a way to smile at work, do it. If you can entice your employees to smile more, go for it.
#11: Smiling Makes You a Better Leader
Speaking of employees, are you in a leadership position–or do you want to be? Smile more to improve your effectiveness as a leader. Smiling boosts leadership because it offers a non-verbal cue that you like the people you’re trying to lead.
Smiling is basically a non-verbal carrot in the carrot-vs. stick scenario. Would you rather give people something good as their leader or something they won’t like? A smile is easy to give and can go a long way toward fostering a connection between yourself and people you want to lead.
#12: Smile More to Improve Others’ Moods
Earlier in this article, I said that smiling improves your mood by boosting endorphins and serotonin. But smiling can do so much more–it can boost others’ moods too!
Think about the last time you were having a crummy day and you saw someone smile to you. It may not have been someone you know–just a stranger whose gaze you met walking down the street. But it made you feel just a little better inside.
You can do that for others if you simply smile more to them. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, offering a fake smile to someone might prompt them to give you a real one, which can, in turn, make you feel better.
#13: Smiling is Contagious
This is related to reason #12 to smile more, but deserving of its own section because I want to share with you the results of another smiling study.
In this study, subjects were shown pictures of other people making various facial expressions. The subjects were instructed to frown at each picture.
Instead, subjects ended up mimicking the facial expressions they saw in the pictures and then forcing themselves to frown when the remembered the instructions.
They reacted to pictures of smiling faces with a smile first. This is just one of many studies that prove that smiles beget other smiles–in other words, they’re contagious.
Given all the benefits of smiling we’ve discussed so far, it’s worth it to spread some smiles around.
#14: Smiling Creates Empathy
Has someone ever shared happy news with you–an engagement, a new job, winning a contest–and your first reaction was to smile?
What about bad news? Have you ever found yourself smiling at someone in reaction to tidings of grief, and then wondering why you couldn’t help but smile?
The reason behind these smiles is empathy. You’re connecting with the person sharing their tale, whether it’s one of joy or woe. Creating empathy shows others that you care about their experiences and feelings because you’re reacting to them with a smile.
In the case of empathizing with good news, you’re sharing in the cheer in the same way that smiles are contagious. In the scenario where you smile upon hearing sad news, you’re smiling because you’re trying to non-verbally tell the other person you commiserate with them and want them to feel better.
#15: Smile More to Draw People to You
In addition to boosting others’ moods, creating empathy, increasing trustworthiness, and appearing confident, smiles are non-verbal cues that we come in peace.
People who intend harm toward others don’t offer genuine smiles. People who are unwelcoming don’t offer a Duchenne smile either.
Smiling draws people to you, instead of pushing them away, because of that non-verbal cue of welcome. No matter what language you and others may speak, a smile is the same everywhere.
Whenever you see someone, offer your brightest smile and see how they’re drawn to you.
What Makes You Smile?
We love to smile–it’s our favorite, just like Buddy the Elf! But sometimes even the biggest fans of smiling need reasons to crack a grin.
What makes you smile? Comment below to share your favorite ways to stay happy.