How to Reduce Stress by Giggling, Grinning, and Giving Up on Your Scowl
Smiling is a lot like breathing. You do it without thinking. And when you pause to become conscious of the act, it starts to feel forced and unnatural.
Believe it or not, though, there are some good reasons for stopping to contemplate your smile and how often you flash it.
Scientific research has shown that the physical act of smiling — even if you do force it — offers innumerable benefits to body, mind, and soul.
Here are just a few.
1. Smiling Reduces Stress
We tend to think of “old wives’ tales” and age-old adages as urban legends or junk science. But scientists suspected those beliefs to have taken root in the first place because of some underlying truth.
Case in point: the classic phrase, “grin and bear it.” Could it be, experts wondered, that smiling actually helps us endure stress?
Two researchers at the University of Kansas decided to find out. They put hundreds of people in stressful situations and asked some of them to smile in spite of the stress.
Remarkably, the smiling group had lower heart rates across the board. Those who were engaging in a “Duchenne smile” (the genuine kind of smile that happens reflexively when one is happy or laughing, invoking muscles around the mouth and the eyes, as opposed to the forced smiles of photographs, which only use the mouth’s muscles) had the lowest heart rates of all, though both groups of grinners saw some benefit.
Their study aligns with others that have found lower levels of inflammatory stress hormones in people who smile and/or laugh more often.
It calls to mind another old quip, this one from Charlie Chaplin, who wrote a famous song called “Smile.”
“Laughter,” he said, “is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” And as stress management techniques go, it’s about as easy (and as cheap) as they come.
Smiles and laughter offer entirely natural stress relief, and they don’t cost a dime.
2. Smiling Increases Happiness
Here we find some truth in another old saying: “Fake it ’til you make it.”
In other words, if you don’t feel happy but want to be, pretend that you are. Put a smile on. Act happy.
Soon enough, the feeling will follow.
Mind you, a smile alone can’t cure clinical depression or mood disorders. But for those struggling to lift their mood, the latest health news shows that the act of smiling can actually change one’s emotional state. Essentially, the brain responds to the cue. “It’s like a feedback loop,” researcher Michael Lewis told Scientific American.
“Making an emotional face — or suppressing one — influences your feelings,” the magazine concluded, summarizing the latest health news out of the University of Cardiff in Wales.
Searching for an easy answer as to how to reduce stress or lift your spirits? Look no further than your own face.
3. Smiling Makes You More Attractive
Experts have long held that most of human attraction happens “below the surface” or “under the radar.” We aren’t always cognizant of what catches our eyes.
It’s not physical features themselves that matter so much as what those features represent — a willingness to keep oneself healthy by working out, the financial ability to dress well or sport a nice coif, etc.
Smiles send similar signals: happiness, accessibility, self-confidence, good oral hygiene. They are indicators of personality, building a bridge to others.
The human smile itself is attractive, experts say, because of what it makes us feel when we see it on others.
If that smile looks nice (straight white teeth, healthy gums, etc.), so much the better.
4. Smiling Makes the World a Better Place
Research shows that smiling, much like yawning, is contagious… and we don’t quite know why. But if you walk into a room and smile, it’s likely that the cumulative smile count will start ticking upward soon after.
“You are responsible for the energy you bring into a place,” says talk show host and destiny guru Oprah Winfrey.
With the simple act of smiling, you can instantly contribute to a change in atmosphere wherever you are. There’s a chain effect. And the more often you smile, the longer that chain grows.
5. Boosts Your Immune System
So far, we’ve talked about smiling as a form of natural stress relief. But some studies show it does even more than that, actually strengthening your immune system as it fights to overcome infection and disease.
“The brain is a sucker for a grin,” writes Nicole Spector for NBC News.
Multiple independent studies have found that smiling — even fake or forced smiling — effectively:
- lowers blood pressure
- releases white blood cells (your body’s germ fighters)
- shortens recovery time after acutely stressful events
- reduces system inflammation caused by high cortisol levels
- increases longevity, leading to longer life
In fact, the aforementioned study at the University of Cardiff even found that “people who could not frown due to Botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.”
6. Makes You More Productive
Previous research has found that people who are healthier and happier are also more productive. So, given the correlation between smiles, health, and nutrition, it may come as no surprise that frequent smilers are also high achievers.
But there may be more to it than mere correlation. A 2010 study by the Warwick Business School found that employees who smile more are “significantly more productive” in their jobs.
Just as importantly, grinners tend to be “significantly more creative” at work too.
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Ideal Dental was founded in 2008 and has over 80 locations across the state of Texas. Ideal Dental offices provide patients with a wide range of dental services including general dentistry, teeth whitening, orthodontics, oral surgery and emergency dental. Ideal Dental’s mission is to put smiles on the faces of hundreds of patients that visit its offices daily.