Sure, your mother’s been telling you to put on a smile for the majority of your life, but did you know there are more benefits to smiling than pleasing a parent? And the claims aren’t just for those who see the world through rose-colored glasses, either.
There is substantial scientific research backing up the health benefits of smiling. Pretty remarkable, isn’t it? Experts from psychology, medicine, and science have performed countless studies showing that smiling has the power to enhance relationships, improve your mood, and even help you live longer.
If you’re still thinking the concept is too good to be true, check out our list of in-depth evidence that shows how smiling can actually improve your health.
If you experience high blood pressure, something as easy as smiling and laughing could help bring levels down. Who knew? A 2009 review shows how a few giggles will increase your heart rate and then cause a moment of muscle relaxation, which decreases heart rate and blood pressure. This reduces the risk of developing heart disease. So get to laughing!
Even if you have to fake a smile, your body will feel relief when you do so. In 2015, a psychology study showed that smiling can lower heart rate in a moment of stress. Therefore, if you smile while doing a stressful task, your body will maintain a lower heart rate and blood pressure.
The “fake it ‘til you make it” idea really rings true here. No need to turn to expensive massages or comedy shows to improve your mood—just putting on a smile will give you an immediate boost. A study in 2010 found that smiling can increase positive thoughts and make you feel better about your situation.
The health benefits of smiling aren’t just about you—smiling can enhance relationships and therefore pass on the health benefits to those around you. In 2014, a study showed that people who smile are more likable than those who don’t smile. This helps improve relationships and increase positivity between couples.
If you’re smiling in the workplace, you’ll feel happier there too. That happiness will pay off too—studies show that happy employees are more productive, energetic, and more likely to be promoted. So if you’re looking for a raise, you just may be able to smile your way there.
Yes, the claims on this one are sound. Smiling can actually contribute to a longer life! Researchers who analyzed the smiles of Major League Baseball players from 1952 found that those who had even a partial smile in photos lived two years longer than players who didn’t smile. And those who had big smiles lived an average of seven years longer than those without smiles.
If you’re tired of popping the painkillers, give smiling a try. A 2012 study found social laughter to be powerful medicine, helping to increase pain thresholds and create a higher pain tolerance. Though the pain doesn’t technically go away, the body’s ability to feel the pain lowers. It’s like magic!
Along with the health benefit of reducing stress, smiling can send out signaling molecules to the brain that fights off illness. This means you’ll have a stronger immune system and get sick less often. So, start practicing your best smile when cold season comes around! A 2015 study even found that recent post-partum women had a stronger immune system when they participated in laughter therapy.
Whether you’re looking for love or just a friend to hang out with, try smiling to attract others. Smiling is contagious, and since it brings so many health benefits, those who see you smiling will start to smile and reap the benefits as well. Though the feelings may be subconscious, your companions will like you more when they see a smile on your face.
So now you know a variety of ways that smiling can benefit your health. But how exactly does smiling help you live longer and healthier? Assuming you’re not interested in reading the nitty gritty details of all these scientific studies, we’ll break things down for you in simpler terms.
Every time you smile, your brain receives neural messages. Neuropeptides are one of the helpful, minuscule molecules that send positive vibes to the brain. These molecules allow neurons to communicate and tell your body when the brain is feeling any emotion, from happiness to fear or excitement.
Smiling also releases neurotransmitters, including dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These are some of the chemicals released during exercise, sex, and breastfeeding, and they are a powerful way of bringing out positive emotions and creating human bonds.
Though forced and even fake smiles can amazingly provide similar health benefits to a real smile, studies show that authentic smiles are best. So what is a “real” smile? A true smile is scientifically known as a Duchenne smile and is constituted by a smile that causes the cheeks and eyes to raise. Smiling with just the mouth can bring benefits, but Duchenne smiles are more effective in bringing all the life-elongated benefits of smiling.
If you aren’t already a habitual smiler, it’s time to start practicing. Men are especially prone to smile less than women, and adults smile less than children. So there’s plenty of room to improve on the smiling habit, no matter who you are.