"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." -- Thich Nhat Hahn
We often tend to associate smiling as the result of a positive event or mood. But research demonstrates that the act of smiling, in and of itself, can be the catalyst for joy. Wonderful things, ranging from an improved mood to a better relationship, can be the result of the simple act of smiling. Even better, it is a tool that is free, easy and always available. So turn the corners of your mouth upwards and read on about five scientifically backed reasons why you should smile (a lot) more. Hopefully, by the time you're done you'll have learned something new and will be in a better mood!
1) You'll Feel Better, Emotionally and Physically
Smiling, even when you aren't feeling happy, can help shift your mood. Darwin posited, back in 1872, that making changes in our facial expressions can shift our emotional experience, something he called facial feedback response theory. Psychological research has validated Darwin's assertion that expressions do not just result from moods, but actually influence them. Additionally, research by Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman at the University of Kansas demonstrated that smiling can alter our stress response by slowing down the heart rate and decreasing perceived levels of stress regardless of whether the person actually feels happy or not. So instead of waiting for something to happen around you to make you happy, take the power into your own hands and smile your way to a better mood.
2) It May Help You Live Longer
Smiling more may actually extend your lifespan. Research out of Wayne State University which examined the smiles of baseball players in headshots from the 1952 season found that players with largest smiles lived an average of 79.9 years, two years longer than the average lifespan in the United States. The players who didn't smile at all in their photos lived an average of 72.9 years, seven years less than those with the biggest grins. Additionally, the research by Kraft and Pressman cited above, indicates that smiling may improve heart health by decreasing heart rate after stressful events. So, adding smiling to your health regime of eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising may just add a few years to your life.
3) You Will Make Someone Else's Day
When Mother Teresa said "Everytime you smile at someone, it is... a gift to that person, a beautiful thing" she was right. One study conducted by Hewlett Packard found that seeing another's smile stimulated the heart and brain more so than eating chocolate, having sex, or receiving money. This was particularly true when viewing the smile of a child. Additionally, research has demonstrated smiling may actually be contagious. Research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology examined mimicry, the tendency to mimic the emotional expressions of those around us, and found that it is actually hard to frown when someone else is smiling.
4) Your Relationships Will Be Stronger
People who smile more may have longer and more successful marriages. A 2001 study by Keltner and Harker evaluated women's smiles in yearbook photos and found that those who had more prominent smiles were more satisfied with their marriages at age 52. A similar study published in 2009 found a correlation between smiles in photographs and divorce rates. The larger the smile, the less likely divorce was later in life. Conversely, those with the smallest smiles or no smiles, were five times more likely to be divorced. So what does the smile have to do with marriage? People who smile more tend to be more optimistic, joyful and emotionally stable which lends itself to healthier relationships.
5) Give a Boost to How Others Perceive You
People who smile more are generally perceived to be more trustworthy, sincere, sociable and competent than their frowning peers. Additionally, a study by Orbit Complete found that 70 percent of people find women more attractive when they are smiling than when they are wearing makeup.
So whether you want to decrease your stress, improve your relationship, or bring joy to someone else's day, smiling is an effective strategy for achieving a multitude of goals. Even better, it's a free, easy, one-stop shop that is with you everywhere you go. So what are you waiting for? Smile!