In the last chapter of Feel Good Tips, I shared the science of endorphins, the feeling good hormones. The tip for today is a very simple way to feel good, instantly: smile.
Smiling actually makes you happy
The good thing about smiling is that it a two way street – smiling creates a happy feeling, and feeling happy makes you smile. It does not matter where you start – the feeling or the smile. When we experience joy, the muscles in our brain contract and start a positive loop of feeling even more joy. This is not a new science. As early as the 1870s, Charles Darwin first suggested that facial expressions did not just express emotions, but could actually induce them.
Here is a diagram of all the muscles involved in smiling.
Benefits of smiling
A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.
– William Arthur Ward
Smiling has been studied for years. In 1989, psychologist Robert Zajonc compared the mood of participants asked to make the long “eee” sound (which involves the same muscles as smiling) and those who were asked to make a long “ooo” sound (which involves the same muscles as frowning). Zajonc found that the people who made the “eee” sound felt much better.
In another study done by Dr. Niedenthal and her colleagues, participants were asked to hold a pencil between their teeth, which makes use of the same muscles as smiling. They found that it improved their participants’ mood dramatically. Even a fake smile or something that looks like a smile can do the job.
Yet another study split participants into three group. The first group looked at photos of smiling people. The second group looked at the same photos and copied the facial expressions. The third group looked at the photos, and copied the expressions while looking at themselves in a mirror. The first group’s mood did not change, the second group was much happier than before and the third group was even happier than the second group. If you are faking it, have a mirror.
In a final, quirky study called “The Yearbook Study”, researches tracked down women in a yearbook and compared between those who smiled in the yearbook photo and those who did not. They found that women who smiled the most lived happier lives, had happier marriages and fewer setbacks.
Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been!
– Mark Twain
Facts about smiling
- Smiling produces a happy feeling.
- A happy feeling produces a smile.
- Smiling reduces stress.
- Smiling reduces blood pressure.
- Large smiles are related to better health, wellbeing and higher romantic success.
- Smiling strengthens the immune system.
- People who smile often think better about themselves. For example, 63% of people who participated in a research study said they look better in photos where they are showing their teeth. 99.7% of the participants said an attractive smile is an important personal asset. Smile, it will make you feel better about yourself.
A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.
– Denis Waitley
- Children smile a lot. On average, kids smile 400 times a day. That is why it makes us happy to be around them.
- Happy people smile at least 40 times a day.
- The average person smiles only about 20 times a day.
- Hanging around smiling people makes us smile more. This is the way most people naturally create rapport, because smiling is contagious.
- Imagining a happy future makes us smile more.
- Recalling a happy moment makes us smile.
- People who smile more get more promotions than non-smiling people. This is probably because smiling makes the people around you feel better. 74% of people say that an unattractive smile can hurt a person’s chances for business or career success.
- Men think that smiling women are more attractive.
- People who smile more live longer.
- People tend to smile more when they are in company than when they are alone. Surround yourself with smiley friends.
- People can tell if you are smiling even when you are on the other side of the phone. Make sure you put a smile on your face before dialling.
- Putting a pencil between your teeth can produce the same feeling as smiling (like happiness). The feeling you get from putting the pencil between your teeth makes you smile, which in turn makes you happier, which makes you smile more. It is the perfect cycle!
- When you look at yourself in the mirror, smile. If you see yourself smiling, you will feel better about yourself.
Every time you smile, it is an action of love – a gift.
– Mother Teresa
- When taking a photo of yourself, think of something really happy so your smile will be genuine.
- Practice smiling until you find a smile you like.
- Women smile on average 62 times a day.
- Men smile on average 8 times a day.
- A researcher by the name of LaFrance claims that women smile more than men because it is more socially accepted or expected. It is a shame though, so if you are a man, change this!
- A smiling person seems younger than their actual age.
- Smiling people are perceived as being more friendly.
With so much to back up smiling, I hope you are smiling now.
This post is part of the series How to Feel Good: