They say that there is magic in a smile, and we can’t deny the warmth we feel when we’re on the receiving end of a genuine grin. Nonetheless, smiles haven’t always been considered fashionable. A US study reviewing smiles in photographs was carried out by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Brown. The study showed that in the early 1900’s, smiling was anything but on-trend, with a preference for pensive, serious poses in front of the camera.
(image of smiles from the early 1900’s to 2010’s, taken from the Washington Post)
Luckily for us today, a smile is considered our most beautiful asset. Research today indicates that smiling is just plain good for you. And with many a good reason:
We all smile in the same language
Smiling is the universal symbol for happiness. Many gestures have different meanings across different societies. Handshakes, hugs, and bows for example, have various meanings across different cultures. A smile however, is one of the few universal signs of good will. No matter where in the world, a smile is a symbol of happiness and acceptance.
Smiling can extend your life
A 2009 US study into major league baseball players in the 1950’s, showed that players who smiled more, lived up to 7 years longer than players who did not. The study conducted by Ernest L. Abel and Michael L. Kruger indicated that people who smile more and exhibit more positive emotions, actually lived longer, happier, and more stable lives. Biochemist Sondra Barrett states that when we smile, we reduce the rigidness of our cells, and this physical relaxation can reduce the risk of stress-induced cell mutations that can lead to the development of certain cancers.
Smiling reduces stress and lowers blood pressure
We are all familiar with the stress life throws at us, and the toll it takes on the human body. Studies have shown that the heart recovers more quickly from stress in subjects that smile, as opposed to subjects that are asked to hold a straight face. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Psychological Science, 170 participants were asked to hold chopsticks in their mouths in three formations, making them smile to various degrees . At the end of a stressful task, the study revealed that the subjects who smiled with the biggest chopsticks experienced a substantial reduction in heart rate and quicker stress recovery. So the next time you are feeling your blood boil, remember that a simple smile might the help you were looking for.
Smiling can lift your spirits
Many people think that smiling is just a result of being happy. What many of us don’t realise is that smiling can actually make us happier! Our facial expressions do not just communicate our mood, but influence it as well. Recent studies into facial expressions have shown that a person’s mood aligns strongly with the emotion his or her face is communicating. So think happy thoughts, smile, and your mood will smile too.
Your smile has the power to heal everyone – not just you!
Smiles are contagious (and no, it’s not just a saying). Research conducted as part of a study in Sweden indicated that people had difficulty frowning when looking at other subjects who were smiling. Many of the subjects’ facial muscles involuntarily formed into a smile. So spread that joy and share a smile today.
You were doing it before you were born
Many babies start smiling regularly at around 6 weeks old, but studies show that smiling begins in the womb. Smiling is in fact hard-wired into our genes, rather than an entirely learned behaviour. Cultivate your innate self, and wear your smile with pride.
Smiling can benefit your career
Facial expressions have a big impact on first and future impressions. This is particularly important in our professional lives. People who smile are more likely to be remembered. Furthermore, the smilers of the workplace are considered more approachable, and have better success in social and professional interactions. So a smile may just be the key to that long sought after promotion!
Smiling makes us look younger
Smiling exercises anywhere between 5 and and a whopping 53 muscles in the face (depending on how rictus a grin may be). With all this muscular exertion, the skin stays firm and taut, aiding youthfulness and vitality. Who knew a face lift could be so easy.
Smiling makes you seem more approachable and trustworthy
Your smile communicates more than you may realise. An authentic smile goes a long way. A 2004 Penn University study found that authentic smiles shared by employees in the service industry influenced their impressions on customers in a positive way. The study also showed that we are much more likely to trust someone with a smile, than someone with a neutral expression, or worse still – a frowner!
Smiling heals the body and the soul
Endorphins (the feel-good chemicals released by the brain) help us feel better when we are in pain. Studies show that people who smile and laugh experience less pain than those who do not. A further study indicated that people diagnosed with immune diseases showed signs of recovery more quickly when they spent more time laughing and smiling.
So how often do you smile? Too often, we see people who have lost their grin. Don’t let your teeth be a barrier to a happier, healthier life. Let us make you smile today.