Smiling Is SO Good For You - But Are You Doing It Right?

In these troubled times it may seem simplistic, maybe almost offensive to encourage people to smile. However, there are so many wonderful benefits to be gained from this always on hand human behaviour that I’m going to do exactly that.

I’m certainly not saying just put a smile on your face and everything will be dandy. But I definitely am saying that increasing the quantity and quality of your smiles can diminish your stress thereby lifting your mood, helping you feel more connected and boosting your overall health. All results that make the simple smile something very worthwhile!

Children smile on average about 400 times per day. Sad to say that even an adult who rates themselves as “very happy” smiles only about 40-50 times per day and a typical adult smiles only 20 times per day. And now that many people are wearing face masks for extended periods that smile rate is dropping even lower.

We need to get the smile rate up, especially in tough times, because smiling is really good for our mental, physical and social health.

There are now dozens of scientifically validated studies confirming the tangible advantages of smiling. One such study published in the journal Psychological Science had subjects perform tasks known to be stressful while either smiling or not smiling. One of the tasks these brave folks were assigned makes me feel stressed just thinking about it - tracing the outline of a star using their non-dominant hand while looking in a mirror. Yikes!

On completing the tasks the stress levels of the participants were quantified by looking at how quickly the heart rates of the different groups returned to normal. The heart rates of the non-smiling subjects took longer to recover than the smilers, indicating that grinners are in fact winners when it comes to experiencing less stress.

But here is where it gets even more interesting. There were two groups of smilers. The first group were asked to smile moderately while the second group were asked to produce what is known as a Duchenne smile (named after the French neurologist who identified it in the 1860s). In the Duchenne smile the eyes crinkle and additional muscle groups are activated which tell our brains we are happy. And yep the Duchenne group with the smiling eyes were the most de-stressed of all participants in the experiment.

I've illustrated non-smile, ordinary smile and Duchenne smile in the header photo for this blog. Luckily if you live long enough your get "laugh lines" which enhance your Duchenne smile!

Other studies have shown that smiling also elevates our mood by stimulating the release of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. Putting a smile on your dial also boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and makes us feel closer to other people by activating the brain’s mirror neurons that help us feel what others are feeling. And if that's not enough people who have a smile that engages their eyes are rated as more attractive and sexier.

So let’s get your smile count up with the Feel Betterer Smile Challenge!

This week…

  1. In the privacy of your bathroom (or on the street in front of a shop window if that’s your style) look at your reflection and practice the Duchenne smile. Crinkle those eyes and get your peepers twinkling. 
  2. Put some smile cues around your house or work place. This can be as simple as putting the word “Smile” on your refrigerator door and taking a moment to do just that before opening it.
  3. Take a couple of minutes about 3 to 5 times a day to just close your eyes and think of memories, people, pets, ideas or anything that helps you to smile. Enjoy that smiling moment to the full!

And after all that why not trace the outline of a star using your non-dominant hand while looking in a mirror to test your stress level? Just kidding!

I can tell you from my own experience and the experiences of thousands of people who have attended my workshops that increasing your smile rate will definitely increase your happiness, energy and health. And because the Duchenne smile radiates from the eyes it's the perfect smile to put on your dial while wearing a mask. So what are you waiting for? Smile it up peeps!

Your thoughts, observations and stories are very welcome in the blog comments section. Let me know what you think.

Betterer Wishes, Anthony

Anthony Ackroyd, CEO Feel Betterer

P.S. You can join the Feel Betterer Free Community for extra fun.

Check out our Feel Betterer online course presented by the legendary Petrea King called 4 Keys To Resilience And Peace

Contact us at feelbetterer.com

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