Say ‘cheese!’

People often wear a fake smile when in front of a camera. However, many people are not privy that choosing to smile automatically kicks the body into a happy gear –both externally and internally. According to the Facial Feedback Theory,  feedback from the skeletal muscles used in facial expressions plays a pivotal role in regulating behavior and emotion. There are two basic types of smiles. A forced smile, such as for a photo, only uses the mouth to shape the smile. In a genuine, spontaneous smile, called a Duchenne smile, the mouth muscles and those encircling the eyes are engaged. Being informed of the science behind smiling is a compelling reason, even when not in the mood, to put on a happy face. 

Each time a person smiles, they throw a little feel-good party in their brain. Note five benefits of smiling: 

S = Stress reducer 

M = Mood improvement

I = Increased immune function & productivity 

L = Lowers blood pressure

E = Endorphins activator

Smiling reduces stress. According to Biochemist Sondra Barrett, smiling can release a person’s tension on a cellular level.  In her book, Secrets of Your Cells, Barrett explains how “cells can distinguish between safety and danger, find and repair problems and create an overall sense of balance within the body.” According to the Huffington Post, when we choose to smile, we are reducing the rigidity of our cells, and this physical relaxation can help “combat the risk of stress-induced cell mutations that can lead to the development or persistence of various cancers.” 

Smiling improves one’s mood. As Buddhist author Thich Nhat Hanh so eloquently said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” A mere smile can trigger the release of both serotonin and dopamine which are mood-boosting neurotransmitters. In other words, smiling can trick the brain into believing you are happy which can then induce actual feelings of happiness! Yes, with a smile, you can fake it until your body makes it!

Smiling lowers blood pressure. In fact, one can try this experiment at home: Use a blood pressure monitor, sit down for a few minutes and take a reading. Afterwards, smile for 60 seconds and take another reading while still smiling. Statistics show there will be a difference. Experiments have found that even fake smiles have produced lower heart rates and eased stress.

Smiling boosts productivity. When we smile, whether genuine or feigned, we trick our body into thinking we are in a good mood. Our mood influences the decision-making process.  When people are in a good mood, that leads to more flexible, creative and original thinking, and that mindset has a significant effect on generating productive employees. 

Our body has a physical reaction when smiling including releasing endorphins, which are both natural pain killers and hormones normally released when exercising, as well as raising dopamine and serotonin levels. These natural chemicals contribute towards elevating one’s mood, relaxing the body, calming the nervous system, reducing physical pain and boosting feelings of well-being, motivation, positivity and happiness. Clearly, smiling is a natural anti-depressant drug.

 From experience, one can note that smiling often leads to laughing which expands the lungs, stretches muscles in the body & stimulates homeostasis. Laughter can reduce the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that lowers the metabolism rate and stores fat in the mid-section. As laughter naturally improves metabolism, that influences the body to burn more calories & lose weight. Laughter also increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies that improves the body’s resistance to illnesses. In fact, happy people get sick less often. If a person does not like their job, they are more susceptible to have major diseases including cancers, diabetes and ulcers. So, being happy with a job helps one from becoming sick and burning out. Indubitably, laughter and smiling really are the best type of medicine! 

In summation, never underestimate the value of a smile. This article has delineated 5 benefits of smiling using the acronym S.M.I.L.E. At the end of the day, there will likely be that one fastidious fellow who seems determined to stay in a bad mood no matter what you do. Nonetheless, never allow anyone to turn your smile upside down. The person who is strong enough to keep smiling usually winds up with something good enough to smile about. A smile should be standard equipment for all people, both at work and at home. Smile every mile. 

It takes far fewer muscles to smile than to frown -- so really, you have no excuse. One of the most powerful things a person can do to gain influence with others is to smile at them. Since smiling is contagious, try this experiment. The next time you are shopping at the mall, standing in line or walking down the street--choose a face from the crowd approaching you and direct a 5,000-watt powered smile towards them! Watch what happens, benefit those around you, because the curve of your smile can straighten many things.