Beyond Food: How Smiling More can Improve your Health
I’ve been wanting to start this section of the blog for a long time. I’ll be using the Beyond Food columns to share information about things you can do to nourish yourself and improve your health that
Back in 2012, researchers at the University of Kansas found that smiling has a positive effect on our happiness and physical health. In the study, they measured how participants responded to stress while making a fake smile, creating a real/natural smile and then while having a neutral face. The results showed that smiling during a taxing task—not just after—can help the body and mind recover more quickly from the stressful event. Previous studies have shown similar benefits that last after stressful events have passed.
Bottom line. Smiling is good for you.
Let’s look at some of the reasons WHY…
When you smile, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for making us feel happy, and they also help lower stress levels. The movements of the muscles in your face are interpreted by your brain, which in turn releases endorphins.
Faking a smile (or a laugh) works as well as the real thing—the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake as it interprets the positioning of the facial muscles in the same way. This is known as the facial feedback hypothesis. The more we smile and laugh, the more often we feel happier and relaxed.
- endorphins act as the body’s natural pain killers. Laughing and smiling can be very effective in chronic pain management. It also helps with short term pain issues.
- endorphins decrease cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that becomes more active when we feel stressed. It contributes to unpleasant feelings and anxiety but also impacts heart rate and blood pressure. By lowering cortisol and keeping it balanced, we can reduce negative feelings and feel better!
Smile more often:
- Smile and laugh regularly. Your brain does not know the difference between a fake or real smile, and by doing so more often you will feel better, and become more likely to smile and laugh more spontaneously.
- Try to smile when you are in the midst of something challenging. Personally, I think about something that makes me genuinely happy and I lift the corners of my mouth, soften my eyes and smile into the thought… but the research shows you can just make a smile and go from there.
- Spend time with people who smile. Just like laughter, smiles are contagious… it is hard to keep a straight face when people around you are smiling.