You’ve probably heard the saying, “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughing may indeed benefit your health, and the same is true for smiling. Read on to learn some interesting facts about smiling and how it impacts your health, including how smiling affects your mood and the top health benefits linked to smiling.
Correlation Between Smiling and Your Mood
When you’re feeling stressed or unhappy, smiling may be the last thing on your mind. However, research has confirmed the conventional wisdom that putting on a smile may help you cheer up.
In a recent meta-analysis, scientists combined data from 138 studies about facial movements and their effect on emotions. They found that making facial expressions can actually make you feel the emotions connected to those expressions. So when you put on a smile, you may find yourself feeling a little bit happier.
Test it out for yourself: Next time you’re feeling down, try tricking your brain by putting on a smile.
How Does Smiling Impact Your Mental Health and Confidence?
Smiling may impact your brain. When you smile, your body releases three chemicals. Each chemical may have an impact on your happiness and mental health:
- Dopamine - Sometimes called the “pleasure chemical,” is part of your brain’s reward system. It’s released when you do something enjoyable and helps you feel pleasure. Dopamine also plays a role in your mood: Low levels of this chemical have been linked to depression.
- Serotonin - A smile may trigger serotonin happiness. How does serotonin make you happy? It may contribute to feelings of euphoria (like the well-known “runner’s high). Other serotonin benefits include helping fend off depression.
- Endorphins - another chemical that can make you happy. Endorphins have been called the “body’s natural painkillers.” So how do endorphins make you happy? These chemicals mimic the actions of morphine and can both relieve pain and improve your mood.
Smiling helps boost your confidence, too. When you smile, others may find you more approachable. Your smile can help you improve relationships with others, giving you more confidence in social settings. Happiness, and the smiling that may come with it, are also linked to productivity at work so that you may feel more confident on the job.
Smiling is Contagious
When you see someone smiling around you, you may notice that you can’t help smiling yourself. You may wonder: Is smiling contagious?
Just like a yawn, a smile is contagious. When you see someone else smile, your brain automatically responds and primes you to return the smile. This infectious smile plays an important role in social interactions. Mirroring other people’s behavior, including their smiles, helps you build strong bonds to form relationships.
Interestingly, similar infectious energy has also been seen in our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. For example, researchers have observed chimpanzees laughing in response to other’s laughter. Moreover, chimpanzees that displayed this contagious laughter were also seen playing together for longer — suggesting a stronger social bond.
Paying it Forward and Creating a Ripple Effect
It’s easy to share the benefits of smiling with the people around you. Flash a smile at someone else, and they’ll likely catch your contagious smile. Better yet, they may spread the smile to someone else. In this way, smiling can create a ripple effect. By simply putting on a smile, it’s possible to pay it forward and help others enjoy the benefits of smiling.
Top Benefits of Smiling
Smiling may offer several benefits for you and the people around you. Putting on a smile can trick your brain into feeling a bit happier. Smiling may release feel-good chemicals, further boosting your mood. And when you know you’ve helped spread the benefits of smiling to others, you may feel even better. Plus, smiling has been linked to a long list of potential health benefits.
The Power of Smile: Top Ten Health Benefits
Why is laughing good for you? And what about smiling? Research has identified many potential health benefits of smiling and laughing. Here are ten of the many health benefits:
- Smiling may help you feel less stressed. It turns out there’s some science behind the adage “grin and bear it.” One study suggested that people who smile during stress-inducing activities experience a less intense stress response, including a lower heart rate.
- Smiling may improve your mood. Smiling and laughing can boost your mood in the long run. It can help improve your self-esteem and even help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Smiling may improve your immune system. The positive thoughts you feel when you smile and laugh may trigger the release of neuropeptides. These chemical messengers may help your body fight off stress and illnesses.
- Smiling may reduce pain. The brain’s release of endorphins reduces pain. In one study, people who smiled while receiving an injection reported about 40% less pain than people who held neutral expressions.
- Smiling may improve your memory. One study found that older adults performed better on a memory assessment after watching a funny video. Humor, with its associated smiles and laughs, could improve memory by reducing stress.
- Smiling may improve your relationships. Smiling and laughter may help strengthen social bonds. In addition, research has linked strong relationships to various health benefits, including better mental health and a longer lifespan.
- Smiling may make exercise feel easier. For example, cycling on a stationary bike with a smile feels easier than cycling with a frown, according to a 2012 study. That means exercising with a smile may help you push yourself and reach your fitness goals.
- Smiling may help you lose weight. While it’s no substitute for diet and exercise, a smile may support your weight loss efforts. That’s because smiling and laughing may help reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that’s been linked to weight gain.
- Smiling may lower your blood pressure. Is laughing good for your heart? It could be. The endorphins your brain releases when you smile or laugh may help relax your body. This could help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.
- Smiling may help you live longer. People who smile and laugh often may enjoy longer lives compared to those that don’t. For example, a large Norwegian study reported that women with a strong sense of humor had a lower risk of death from all causes.
Easy Tips for Taking Care of Your Smile
There are many reasons to smile, but if you don’t feel confident about your teeth, you may fear smiling. Before getting into the habit of showing off your smile every day, you may want to learn tips for how to take care of your teeth, how to make your teeth stronger, how to brush teeth properly, or how to strengthen teeth and gums.
For healthy teeth and a more confident smile, try these easy dental care tips:
- Brush your teeth twice per day. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, brush your teeth twice per day. Thorough brushing takes about two minutes. For the proper brushing technique, hold your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Then, brush back and forth in short, gentle strokes.
- Floss your teeth daily. Your toothbrush’s bristles can’t reach between your teeth and under your gum line. To clean these hard-to-reach areas, floss your teeth once per day. Use a gentle, rubbing motion, and take care not to snap the floss against your gums.
- Avoid teeth-staining foods and drinks. Some foods and drinks have darker pigments that can leave stains on your teeth. Consider avoiding or limiting coffee, red wine, berries, curry, tomato sauce, and other deeply colored foods and drinks for a confident smile.
- Avoid tobacco. If you use tobacco, consider quitting. The chemicals in tobacco may leave stubborn stains on your teeth. Nicotine can leave yellowish stains on your teeth, while tar can leave dark stains.
- Avoid clenching and grinding. Clenching and grinding your teeth may wear down your tooth enamel, leaving your teeth looking short and flattened. This habit could also chip or break your teeth. If you notice you clench and grind your teeth, see your dentist.
- Wear a sports mouthguard. If you take part in team sports, consider protecting your smile with a sports mouthguard. By cushioning blows from wayward sticks, balls, or even elbows, a mouthguard may help you prevent chipped or broken teeth.
- See your dentist regularly. To maintain healthy teeth, it’s important to see your dentist regularly for checkups. At these visits, you may receive professional teeth cleaning. This thorough cleaning may help remove stubborn surface stains, which can help you feel more confident showing off your smile.
The Importance of Maintaining Your Oral Health
Taking care of your teeth can help you enjoy the many health benefits of smiling, but there are also oral health benefits. A good at-home oral hygiene routine may help you prevent some oral health problems, such as cavities and gum disease. Looking after your teeth may have benefits for the rest of your body, as well. Poor oral health has been linked to many diseases, including heart disease and stroke.
Use the Smile Generation to search for a local dental office to maintain your oral health and learn how to smile more confidently. Now you know that if you’re ever feeling down or want to make others around you happy, all you have to do is show off those pearly white teeth and smile. Pay it Forward with a smile. Smile Forward 🙂