The Healing Power Of A Smile

This is a fun post about smiling. I say it's fun because, let's face it, smiling and laughing are generally seen as a positive thing.
07/03/2011 01:58am ET | Updated September 1, 2011
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This is a fun post about smiling. I say it's fun because, let's face it, smiling and laughing are generally seen as a positive thing. I mean, really, who out there doesn't like to smile and laugh? Yea, maybe some dour political or business figure you dislike never seems to smile, but generally, isn't smiling "good"? I think it is, and I'd like to discuss a few fun observations about smiling.

I will point out that medically; there is no concrete, definitive "proof" that exists in terms of smiling being good for you, or healthy, or whatnot (at least I could not find any that I could point you to). Yes, it's perceived that smiling is healthy because it seems to release serotonin and other positive, stress-reducing hormones, but it's much more anecdotal and "seems to" evidence than cold, hard science. But proving something isn't the point of this post anyway (besides, cold, hard science never really made me smile, to be honest!)

So let's discuss a few observations and snippets about smiling!

• There's no doubt that smiling, in general terms, is more attractive. Just look at photographs on this wiki page about smiling(1), and you get a good feeling from each one -- a much better feeling than if the person was frowning, for sure.

• There's an old saying that "it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile", although it is unclear if that is really true (2). The "number" of muscles seems to change with each e-mail forward. However, try to smile, and then try to frown -- which one "feels" harder to do? To me, it's no doubt that the frown takes far more effort. So maybe there's something to this.

• In terms of health, smiling does seem to reduce blood pressure and releases serotonin and other natural pain killers and endorphins.(3) This would seem to be beneficial, no? But besides talking about releasing serotonin and the like, just use yourself as an example -- doesn't it simply feel good to smile? Isn't it better to talk to someone who is smiling and happy as opposed to someone tight-lipped and sour? Basically, our entire day is made up of different emotions and feelings -- doesn't it seem beneficial to have more of what feels good than feels bad?

• One of the first "tips" that any aspiring salesperson gets is to smile more. It seems sales-oriented businesses have figured out that smiling equals more sales, and many sales training and personal development experts recommend smiling more(4). Even telephone salespeople are encouraged to smile as they talk. Again, no hard science here (especially because any business that tested this isn't releasing the results to competitors), but many sales managers wholeheartedly believe that smiling can be subconsciously "sensed" in a phone conversation. They always say 'follow the money," so if salespeople and sales managers (of which the most successful are masters at body language and communication) say smiling is good, I'll believe them.

I found a few interesting statistics (5) that I'd like to repost here. These are not "official" stats, as I could not find any linkable study that produced these. However, they are fun, so here we go:

• The average woman smiles 62 times a day

• The average man? Only 8. Wow -- that surprises me. More on that afterwards

• 63 percent of people think they look best in photos when they show their teeth.

• 99.7 percent of people (that's prettymuch everyone) think an attractive smile is an important personal asset.

• 74 percent of people think an unattractive smile can hurt someone's chances in terms of career.

• 23 percent of people think they look best with their mouth closed (OK, perhaps they need to see a cosmetic dentist.)

Again, this is for fun -- the above are not "official" in any way -- it's just what I found floating around the net' (and I wanted to point out that if you searched for such, be a bit wary as I could not find any "official" study that produced these stats ... Personally, while I do not have a hard time believing that women smile more than men, almost eight times more than men is a little hard to get behind.)

Ok, so we've established that there are no hard stats for smiling, but it's pretty clear that smiling is positive in terms of feeling and looking good. So how can we smile more? Here are a few tips(6):

• Practice. Really, practice smiling in front of a mirror. Find the "sweet spot" in your smile that looks best to you, and practice doing it.

• Think positive thoughts. This takes practice as well, but in your "downtime," think of positive things. Things that make you happy, etc. Smiles will naturally follow.

• Find a favorite comedy routine, or a favorite "funny" scene from a movie, and make it your go-to thought when you are down. May I suggest something from Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

• Maintain good oral hygiene. Of course you knew this would be coming from me. But it's true -- if you feel good about how your smile looks, you'll do it more often. Brush, floss, see your dentist twice a year, etc.

"Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone."
-- Stanley Gordon West (Growing an Inch)

Until next time, keep smiling! (I've been saying that every post, and it really fits well here!)