May 19 2015
We all love when something makes us break into an ear-to-ear smile or uncontrollable belly laugh, but did you know there is plenty of science to prove that they’re good for you, both mentally and physically? It’s true, as smiling triggers the release of neuropeptides, tiny molecules that help neurons communicate, sending signals that we are happy, sad, fearful, in pain, or excited. Smiling and laughing (there are some distinct differences physiologically, but we’ll treat them as interchangeable for the purposes of this blog) also release the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, flooding our bodies with messages that manifest in health benefits.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh
Of course, there are also plenty of social benefits to smiling, and people will even automatically perceive you differently. Besides, it’s proven that it actually takes far more muscles and intent for you to form a frown than a smile. So make sure to smile and laugh every day for better health!
The health benefits of smiling and laughing:
The simple act of forming a smile uses anywhere from 5 all the way up to 53 muscle movements
There are many health benefits to smiling and laughing, as it’s the body’s best natural remedy.
“A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks.”
— Charles Gordy
The endorphins your brain secretes when you smile or laugh act to naturally reduce pain levels in the body – without the harmful side effects of synthetic medicines.
Laughter improves your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulating vital organs like your heart, lungs and muscles.
Smiling and laughter also reduces the levels of stress hormones your body produces, making it the best natural remedy for anxiety and stress.
The hormone serotonin that’s release when you smile or laugh works to boost your mood and lift your spirits, acting as a natural combatant against depression, stress, and anxiety.
“Always remember to be happy because you never know who’s falling in love with your smile.”
Laughing naturally lowers blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
You might be surprised to learn that laughter also improves cardiac health by burning about as many calories per hour as if you were walking at a slow or moderate pace.
When you laugh and smile, your body produces more T cells, which are specialized immune system cells, helping boost your immune system and fighting sickness. It also reverses the toxic physical manifestations of negative thoughts and stress, which helps you from getting sick.
How smiling and laughing impacts those around you:
Researchers at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland found that subjects found that both men and women rated images of people who smiled more attractive than those who did not.
Human beings can recognize a smile from up to 300 feet away, making it the most recognizable of all facial expressions.
“Every day you spend without a smile, is a lost day.”
A study published in the journal Neuropsychology found that looking at person who is smiling or laughing activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region in your brain that process sensory rewards. So when you smile or laugh, it will trigger that “sensory reward reflex” in other people who see you, and you’ll be perceived as attractive, reliable, and sincere.
You may have heard that smiling or laughing is contagious, but it’s actually been proven as science. The cingulate cortex in your brain is the area responsible for unconscious automatic responses, so when someone smiles, others will naturally mimic their expression.
It’s been shown that generally, women smile more than men. But the more they engage in the same work or social roles, the more they smile at equal rates.
“All the statistics in the world can’t measure the warmth of a smile.”
The social science of smiling and laughing:
A researcher from UC-San Francisco identified 19 different types of smiles that fit into two categories: polite “social” smiles and sincere “felt” smiles.
Smiling makes you more attractive than wearing makeup! A study by Orbit Complete concluded that 69% of people find women more attractive when they smile compared to when they are wearing makeup.
“Everyone smiles in the same language.”
Across all cultures, religions, and areas of the word, smiling is the one and only universal sign of happiness, acceptance, and friendship.
It’s probably no surprise that we smile less at work than we do at home. In fact a study found that 30% of subjects smiled five to 20 times a day at work and 28% smiled over 20 times per day at the office.
That could help you move up the career ladder. Smiling more at work actually helps you get promoted, as studies show you’ll be perceived as more attentive, confident, confident, hard working, more of a team player, and a better listener if you smile than if you don’t.
“Laughter is an instant vacation.”
Did you know that babies are born with the ability to smile? Researchers have discovered that it’s not a learned behavior but one that is innate, even at birth. But the first real conscious smile comes around the four to six week mark for most babies, as they are awake and in command of their neurological functions enough at that age.
According to Dr. Wayne Dyer, famous positive thinking guru, it is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time – your brain and body cannot fully foster both of those emotions at the same time, so the conscious choice to smile or laugh helps you let go of anger.
“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
The world always looks brighter from behind a smile.