When I coach runners, I’ve always told them to smile when they train and it will feel easier. They thought I was crazy, but it worked! In fact, you can always see me smiling when I am out running; it just makes me happier and makes the effort seem easier. You’ve probably heard the popular idioms, “Smile at the world and the world smiles back,” and “grin and bear it.” Conventional wisdom says that smiling makes things better, even easier. And, the good news is that research has been proving what conventional wisdom has said for years. Smiling has been proven to reduce stress, boost immunity, increase positive feelings, decrease depression, increase attractiveness and appeal, improve relationships, increase awareness and mental flexibility, lower perceived effort and produce higher income. Whew…that’s a long list.
In essence, smiling is one of the simplest acts that you can practice daily to achieve positive physical and psychological heath benefits.
Smiling has been scientifically proven to positively boost a person’s mood and lower their anxiety. Psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas conducted a study to determine if there was scientific evidence that smiling affects individuals’ stress recovery. They looked at two types of smiles: standard and genuine (Duchenne) smiles. Standard smiles use only the mouth muscles and genuine smiles use the muscles around the mouth and the eyes. The first phase of the study was training participants to hold chopsticks in their mouth in such a manner that would either create a neutral facial expression, a standard smile, or a genuine smile. The second phase was testing which consisted of the participants keeping the chopsticks in their mouth, as they had been taught, while performing two different multitasking activities that would cause stress. Half of the entire group was told to smile while they preformed the task. The participants’ heart rates and self-reported levels of stress were measured while they performed each activity. The results of the study showed that participants who were instructed to smile had lower heart rates after activity recovery then the participants who held a neutral expression. Even the participants who were forced to smile due to the chopstick positioning, but were not told to smile, experienced lower heart rates than the neutral expression group, although the difference was not as great. The group who held a genuine smile and who were told to smile had the most significant reduction in stress. The researchers concluded, “These findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.” See, smiling makes things feel easier!
Because smiling reduces stress, it allows the body’s immune system to function better. This means that smiling could protect people from catching the common cold or flu. Added to that, because smiling causes lower blood pressure, it can support heart health.
Smiling also makes people feel more positive. Psychologist David Lewis conducted a study that measured participants’ brain and heart activity as they imagined two scenarios. One scenario had them imagining someone they loved smiling at them. Another scenario had them imagine that they had won a cash prize. The two images created the same level of stimulation in the participants. Meaning that people received just as much pleasure imagining the smiling loved one as they did imagining winning money.
Smiling lowers depression. An article published by Natural Health Specialist, Danica Collins, discussed how changing one’s mouth shape from a frown to a smile created a release of serotonin. When this serotonin is released, one goes to a more positive mental state. “When people genuinely smile with their eyes and mouth, also known as a duchenne smile, their neurotransmitters release serotonin, which makes them feel better and reduces depression,” said Danica Collins, “the Duchenne smile is so effective that 95% of people who use it experience authentic happiness.” This is another reason why smiling is great for any type of taxing mental or physical activity.
There’s so many great reasons to smile. The benefits of a clearer mind, more energy, less stress, and increased happiness, all backed by science, should put a smile on anyone’s face.
If your looking for more reasons to smile, we invite you to attend Powerful Presence, our 3-Day Intensive Workshop where you will join other high-level professionals to learn how to leverage your personal talents and be your best self in order to create an amazing and Powerful Presence.