Smiling is something most of us do without giving it much thought. But research has shown that when we smile, even if we force it, it sets off a chemical and emotional chain reaction that can improve our health, our mood, our outlook … and even our job prospects!
When you smile and the related muscles contract, a signal is sent to your brain that releases endorphins (the feel-good chemical). This helps you to relax and experience more joy. So the simple act of smiling, even for no particular reason, can lift your mood. This supports the old adage to put on a happy face even when feeling down.
Likewise, smiling reduces harmful stress-related hormones, slows your heart rate and may temporarily reduce your blood pressure. This helps to boost your immune system and overall health. There is evidence that those who often smile may live longer, happier lives.
One interesting study showed that people who were instructed to smile during an unpleasant procedure felt less discomfort than those who were instructed to frown during the same procedure. These findings could be transferred into other life situations where you dread doing something, feel uncomfortable or are experiencing pain.
Body language experts tell us that those who smile often appear confident, friendly, trustworthy, and open. Research also shows that people who smile frequently are perceived as more attractive and get more promotions and better job opportunities.
And while “manufacturing” a smile can be helpful, spending time with people or activities that make you smile naturally will only help. This is one of the reasons why many of us feel good spending time with animals and children – because they make us smile. And because children generally smile more than adults, we tend to smile more while with them. Smiles are contagious.
If you do force a smile, try to let your whole face smile, not just your mouth. In other words, don’t just turn the corners of your mouth up but let the expression move up your cheeks, and eyes and forehead.
The bottom line is that smiling affects how you are perceived by the world as well as how you feel and your overall health. The more you smile, the easier and more natural it becomes. So in addition to smiling “as needed,” look for situations, activities and people that put a smile on your face and start reaping the benefits immediately.