Smile Your Way to Health and Happiness
Say "cheese"! Seriously. I'm asking you to smile for your own good, even if it's a forced smile. That's because the simple act of turning our frown upside down provides us with numerous benefits to our health, social life, and even workplace.
But don't just take my word for it. Even scientists say so!
Before we get into the details, I want you to do two things:
- Watch the video below with Gaur Gopal Das. He's a well-known monk, speaker, and lifestyle coach. In the video he talks about smiling and how it contributes to happiness from a practical and logical perspective. Plus, he has a good sense of humor, so you'll find yourself smiling just by watching it—bonus!
- View the slide Das shares in the video at 1:00. I've shared it below on its own—in case you actually don't watch the video, but you should! The slide is so simple, yet profound, making you realize how much we often needlessly worry. Although, I do believe the slide to be a bit of an oversimplification and that there are legitimate reasons and situations that cause us to worry and where worrying can even be good. Nonetheless, the point it's trying to make is one that we should all strive to remind ourselves of; because too much worrying, especially for things that are beyond our control or that aren't large problems, places an unnecessary burden on our emotional, mental, and even physical state.
SMILING AND YOUR WELL-BEING
The benefits of smiling have been extensively studied. Attention has been particularly placed on how smiling can lead to feelings of happiness, which in turn can lead to improved health. The idea that by creating a certain facial expression we can generate an associated emotion is one that dates back to the 1800s and Charles Darwin, and studies have been conducted since then up through recent years to prove whether this is the case.
In one study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers monitored the heart rate and self-reported stress levels of the subjects during and after performing stressful tasks while manipulating their faces into different smiles with chopsticks. The results showed that smiling, rather than not, can provide both physiological and psychological benefits during times of stress, as evidenced by the heart rates of the smiling subjects being lower and their reported higher levels of positive feelings compared to the non-smiling subjects.
Facial expression research using Botox has even been conducted. Researchers at Cardiff University hypothesized that since smiling can make you happier, then frowning must do the opposite. So they looked at Botox patients, given that the procedure limits frowning. Based on the IDAS (Inventory of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms) questionnaire the researchers administered, the Botox patients were found to have a more positive mood. And the results weren't based on how attractive participants felt after receiving Botox. Considering the study was small and observational, the results can't be conclusive. However, the study does suggest that frowning makes you unhappier while smiling makes you happier. The study has even opened doors for using Botox as a possible treatment for depression.
And if simply being happier and reaping the health benefits of happiness isn't enough to convince you to smile more, then consider these additional reasons:
- Smiling can make you more attractive. Guess I'll upload some more photos of me showing my pearly whites on my dating profile.
- Do you want to make others smile and be happier, in turn making yourself happier, and around it goes? Then smile at others! It's true that smiling is contagious. Happy people attract each other; and on the opposite end of the spectrum, misery loves company. Surround yourself with other smiling folks!
- A study published in the Journal of Pain detailed that participants who smiled during a painful procedure reported having less pain.
- If you want to come across as more sociable, influential, and better able to manage social situations, then smile during them.
- Looking to gain the benefits of smiling in the workplace? According to a study in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, positive humor in the workplace is associated with a multitude of benefits. Employee humor is linked to "enhanced work performance, satisfaction, workgroup cohesion, health, and coping effectiveness, as well as decreased burnout, stress, and work withdrawal." In the case of supervisor/employer humor, there is an association with "enhanced subordinate work performance, satisfaction, perception of supervisor performance, satisfaction with supervisor, and workgroup cohesion, as well as reduced work withdrawal."
Now this doesn't necessarily mean you should go suppressing your emotions all the time moving forward. Because sometimes, if you truly don't feel happy in a given moment for whatever reason, it might be good to show that you don't. If not, you might have a more negative outlook in the future.
SO SHOULD YOU SMILE OR SHOULD YOU NOT?
My take is that it won't hurt you to smile more. If you're feeling down or stressed, see if smiling helps you feel better, even if it's a fake one and even if it helps momentarily. Of course, don't overdo it and suppress your emotions on a regular basis.
The point here is that we would all benefit in making a conscious effort to inject some more smiling and happiness in our lives. And we should aim to prioritize what things warrant a frown and sadness and those that we can just move past with a smile.