Think about it, have you ever had one of those days, just everything seems to be going wrong and you’re really in a slump? Then suddenly, there’s a little smile. Maybe your coffee barista dazzled you with a smile, or you passed someone walking a dog that you just had to pet, and a little smile creeps along your lips.
How was the rest of the day?
How did your mood shift?
More often than not, one little smile like that can turn around a whole day!
Smiling is a little thing that is overlooked far too often. Not only are there mental and emotional benefits of smiling, but there are also physical health benefits that we often don’t even realize. Friday was National Smile Day. Smiling can impact us in so many ways, and here are just a few:
What happens physically?
- Lowered Heart Rate: Smiling helps relax the body, thus slowing the heart. The heart can its thing without overworking, and people who smile more often are less likely to develop heart disease and have lower blood pressure.
- Lowered Pain: Smiling and laughing releases endorphins, endorphins lift our mood and act also act as natural pain killers.
- Boosts Immune System: When our body is relaxed from smiling, the immune system can more quickly react and protect us from illness.
- Appearing Younger: When we smile, our face is naturally lifting itself causing people who smile often to look on average up to 3 years younger.
- Live Longer: It has been shown that people who smile more often can often live up to 7 years longer than most. This is due to the reduced stress which helps the heart and boosting the immune system keeping you healthier, longer.
What happens in your brain?
- Reduced Stress: Stress is one thing that almost everyone can relate too. Stress is reduced when we release endorphins while smiling that fight back against our stress hormones.
- Improved Mood: Those same endorphins we keep mentioning improve our mood altogether, those endorphins are what help us turn around or bad days with a little smile.
- Increased Productivity: It has been shown that laughing and smiling can help boost our productivity. This is also why when we take a small break and laugh at funny videos or pictures, we feel more productive when we get back to work.
- Increase Trust: When other people smile, and genuinely smile, we are more trusting which is extremely important for positive social health whether it be family, friends, or even acquaintances.
- Increase Empathy: What is your first instinct when you feel embarrassed? Or caught doing something suspicious? More often than not the first instinct is to smile to soften the experience. This lowers the embarrassment within us and builds empathy within ourselves when others around us may be experiencing embarrassment.
- Build Confidence and Success: Smiling expresses confidence, which projects self-assurance and success, thus leading to increased success in the workplace, and our personal life.
- Increase Focus: When we’re stressed, our attention is limited, this is because of our natural ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ mode where the focus is narrowed to our stressors. Smiling and laughing reduces this stress, thus broadening our focus on combatting this reaction.
As great as this all sounds, sometimes it’s hard to find reasons to smile. Something to remember is whenever you want to change something, you need to take action. If you can’t think of a reason to smile, just do it anyways. Force a smile on your face. Then, in that awkward moment of you forcing yourself to smile, you’ll have the opportunity to laugh at yourself, to be comfortable with yourself, leading to a very genuine smile and reaping all the rewards.
Alexi is an open, progressive, and kind practitioner with a BA in Psychology, MA in Counseling Psychology, and licensed to practice in the state of IL, she uses her experience and education to empower her clients. Alexi was previously a substance abuse counselor and an eating disorder therapist.