Your Smile is a Power Tool

Did you know that smiling is number 2 on a list of 43 Habits of Absolutely Happy People? (Happiness is a choice is #1) If you can turn smiling into a habit, then you can turn happiness into a habit and happiness leads to success, so let’s explore scientific reasons to smile!

It feels good!

British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate or 16,000 pounds Sterling (that’s approximately $25,000 per smile!)

You’ll Enjoy Better Relationships and Well-being

In a famous UC Berkeley 30-year longitudinal yearbook study, they tracked the lives of women who had the best smiles in yearbook photos compared to the rest. Women who had the biggest most natural smiles lived happier lives, had longer marriages & fewer setbacks and were more inspiring to others.

You’ll Live healthier & longer

Smiling helps reduce stress-enhancing hormones like cortisol and increase the level of mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins  almost as much as getting good sleep, according to recent studies.

A 2010 Wayne State University baseball card study also found a clear correlation between how big a smile someone made on a baseball card photo and how long they would live. The people who smiled the most turned out to live 7 years longer than those who didn’t.

You’ll Appear more competent

Did you know you have 7 seconds or less to make a first impression and 60% of that is non-verbal? A recent study at Penn State found that when you smile, you don’t only appear to be more likable and courteous, but you actually appear to be more competent.

A Smile is Contagious

Have you ever wondered why being around children who smile so frequently makes you smile very often? A recent study at Uppsala University in Sweden found that it’s very difficult to frown when looking at someone who smiles. Why? Because smiling is evolutionarily contagious, and it suppresses the control we usually have on our facial muscles. Mimicking a smile and experiencing it physically helps us understand whether our smile is fake or real, so we can understand the emotional state of the smiler.

Our brain can in fact distinguish very easily between what’s real and what’s fake. In fact researcher Dr. Niedenthal argues there are 3 ways we do so:

  • Our brain compares the geometry of a person’s face to a standard smile.
  • We think about the situation and judge whether a smile is expected.
  • Most importantly: We automatically mimic the smile, to feel ourselves whether it is fake or real. If it’s real, our brain will activate the same areas from the smiler and we can identify it as a real one.

In a recent mimicking study, subjects were asked to determine whether a smile was real or fake while holding a pencil in their mouth to repress smiling muscles. Without the pencil, subjects were excellent judges, but with the pencil in their mouth – when they could not mimic the smile they saw – their judgment was impaired.

How to use your smile as a power tool

Pen in mouth, the volunteers were asked to rate the funniness of some of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons. Intriguingly, the cartoons were rated as more funny when the pen was held with the teeth compared with the lips. This shows how smiling can actually improve your mood, contrary to the usual conception of smiling being an outward sign of the mood you are already feeling.

Taking this idea one step further, forcing either a smile or a frown, volunteers were made to feel stressed by having them submerge one hand in ice-water for 1 minute. Smiling reduced the level of and shortened the recovery time from the iced stress.

So whenever you want to look great and competent, enhance enjoyment of the good things in life or reduce the stress of the rest, to improve your marriage, or feel as if you just had a whole stack of high-quality chocolate – without the calories – or as if you found 25 grand with your name on it, or whenever you want to tap into a superpower that will help you and everyone around you live a longer, healthier, happier life… just smile.

If this sounds like the type of conversation you would like to join into, and you live in the greater Portland metropolitan area, come on over to a heartspark Connections. Consider yourself personally invited!