Smile more! It’s good for your health.

©Glow Images. Model used for illustrative purposes.
©Glow Images. Model used for illustrative purposes.

How often do you smile – really smile? If your answer is a lot, then you’re well on your way to achieving better health, happiness, and even a longer life.

Surprising as it may seem, Professor Barbara Fredrickson, says there’s growing evidence that smiles have a health-boosting effect. That’s because they reflect positive emotions which include joy, contentment and gratitude.  Dr Suzy Green, agrees. She says a number of studies show genuine smiles were linked to higher personal wellbeing, or even living longer.

While increasing our health, happiness and longevity sound like good reasons to increase the number of smiles we ‘beam out’ each day, how does this actually boost health? “Positive emotions are mind and body events”, Fredrickson says.  “One study found people who had more positive emotions in daily life were less likely than others to catch a cold. There is also good evidence that those with high levels of positive emotions get out of hospital faster after a cardiac event.”

From this research, it seems that positive thoughts and feelings have a measurable, favourable effect on the body.  In fact, it could be said that they benefit our health. So, if you or I want to increase our wellness, how often should we smile? Professor Fredrickson says, “My research suggests that we need three positive emotions to lift us up for every one negative emotion that wears us down. So we need three or more smiles to each grimace, think of it that way.”

While that may sound an easy thing to do, what happens if someone is not naturally a smiley kind of person, or if he or she believes that they have nothing in their life to smile about?  Are these individuals doomed to experience poor health and unhappiness?  No. This is not the case. No one has to remain smile-less.

Positive emotions can spontaneously lead to a person having a broad grin, and it’s entirely possible to increase them. This can be accomplished without the kind of effort it takes to work-out at the gym, or to make drastic improvements in one’s life-style.  In fact, you’ll be glad to know, that it’s possible to attain a sunny disposition quite naturally.

Gaining a cheerful facial expression, unlike other life-changes, is simple.  That’s because an appearance of delight is merely an outward expression of what a person is thinking.  People smile readily, when they’re thinking happy thoughts. An unsmiling face, is often the product of unhappy thoughts.  Understanding the thought-based nature of a cheerful expression, shows the need for cultivating smile-inducing thoughts.  So how is this done?

There was a time in my life when a smile didn’t come as readily to my face – as it does now. Several unhappy situations  had occurred causing me to experience gloomy thoughts and feelings.  As a result, I found myself not smiling unless someone actually smiled at me first. Eventually though, because I am normally a happy person, I decided this was not an acceptable way for me to be.

I devised a simple action plan. Each day I would remind myself to,

● take the initiative and be the one to smile first at others. In moving around the community, for example at the check-out, coffee shop, bank and post office, make sure to smile at the person you’re speaking with.

● stop waiting for someone, or something , to make you feel happy and to prompt a smile. Happiness is a state of mind. It doesn’t depend on external factors for its existence. Balanced thinking, contentment and satisfaction, don’t exist “out there” somewhere. Happiness doesn’t have to be found and then somehow acquired. It’s within consciousness. We have it already.

● nurture only face-lighting thoughts.  Dwell on constructive, optimistic, affirmative thinking, instead of constantly chewing over negative thoughts.

● Employ “extra help” that’s right at hand in the form of tried-and-true meditation and prayer practices. These methods, according to doctors, have been found thought-strengthening, and studies have corroborated their mental and physical health benefits.

This plan of mine was successful. It “put a smile back on my dial”.  It was simple, comforting, and didn’t require a large dose of positive thought-power to implement it. Since then, I’ve noticed that taking a moment to smile whenever some blue kind of thinking comes along, gives a spark of happiness – and that’s got to be good for one’s mental health.

This article also appeared on The Wellness Wire -  an Internet daily inspired to help forward lifestyles of health, happiness, and longevity, and a peaceful, just, sustainable world

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I'm a Melbourne based health writer who provides a perspective on the connection between spirituality, thought and health. As a keen blogger, my aim is to provide the public with a diversity of health content including research into the mind-body connection and how thought affects health.

Comments

  1. Tim says

    I entirely agree with your comments. It’s just not possible for me to smile and feel unhappy at the same time! Smiling certainly is a very healthy pastime. It’s so easy to do. It doesn’t cost a single cent. I sure appreciate it when someone else genuinely smiles, because it makes me feel really good too. To my way of thinking, a true smile is an outward expression of genuine heartfelt affection, gratitude or joy. It’s often clearly apparent by the obvious warmth and sparkle in the person’s eyes.

    • says

      Thank you Tim for your comment. So glad you enjoy smiling and being smiled at. It does give everyone a lift. Do we all smile enough at each other? Probably we could do better. I’m endeavouring to increase my smiles per day. As I do, I remember that I’ve been created to be happy and to share that joy with others via a smile.

  2. Peter says

    One of the good outcomes of internet communication is the invention of the smiley emoticon. We use it all the time. It is a quick, visual way to remind our friends that we love them and it makes us feel good about it, too.
    At one time I was screwed up with resentment which promoted dark thoughts and emotions. Finally, I thought ‘don’t go there’. I had the choice of being miserable or free. I picked free and my feelings towards others became more open and tolerant. I also started to enjoy life more.
    It may take many facial muscles to make a smile but the effort is worth it!

    • says

      Thank you Peter for your comment. I love your idea of the smiley emoticon. Well done on changing your thinking from dark thoughts and emotions, to freedom from them. I am smiling with you right now.

    • robin says

      It is interesting, Peter, that resentment actually means re-sentiment. I see this as meaning that when we are resentful, we are feeling the initial anger or dismay over and over again. Like you, I have found that we need to replace this cycle with a conscious effort to forgive and replace the negativity. It is such a relief when this is done! Thanks for sharing your ideas as I agree that it is important to make a conscious decision to alter our thinking.

      • says

        Thank you Robin for your reply to Peter. I like the idea that resentment is “re-sentiment”. When thought of like that, is shows how the cycle of negative emotion can be broken. This paves the way for that smile of positive feeling to be in evidence once more.

  3. says

    Thank you Beverley for your beautiful and happy blog. As in previous comment it was mentioned that a smile cost nothing and as it is said “it makes everything”. It is a manifestation of welcoming you in the circle of loving atmosphere which creates understanding and goodness between individuals. Thank you for that inspired message,

    • says

      Thank you Michael for your comment. I am sure that your smile welcomes those you meet into “the circle of loving atmosphere which creates understanding and goodness between individuals. ” Well done to you.

  4. Wendy Verhagen says

    Thank you Beverly for that very positive blog about the value of smiling.
    It seems such a simple thing to do, but how often do we actually have to remind ourselves to do it as we go through the day? On occasions when walking around the shopping centre, I make a conscious effort to smile at the people whose eyes I meet. More often than not, I receive a (sometimes) surprised, warm response, which makes us both feel better.
    Certainly the way to go. Thank you for reminding us how important it is.

    • says

      Thank you Wendy for leaving your comment. I am so glad to know that you smile at others as you walk around the shopping centre. What a lovely thing to do. Your smiles undoubtedly make someone’s day. I know you’ve made mine.

  5. Carol says

    That was such a happy blog, Beverly, and started the day off perfectly. Thank you so much.
    With love.

    • says

      Thank you Carol for leaving a comment…and for your love. I am so pleased that my blog on smiling got your day off to a flying start. I remember a time when I sang in a group of teenagers on a children’s program called the “Tarax Show” on Melbourne TV. We all thought we were smiling when on camera. My mother told me that I wasn’t smiling. I wouldn’t believe her until I saw a video of our performance. Oh boy! I soon learned to make sure I felt my cheek muscles move when I smiled – not just think of a smile in my mind. A simple, but important lesson.

  6. Pauline Rita Noorts says

    Dear Beverly & blogging friends,

    How timely true, thanks for the reminder,always grateful.
    My mother used to say you sing better when you smile at the same time it lifts everything.

    Loving thoughts to all,…………………..Pauline.

    • says

      Thank you Pauline for your comment. What great advice from your mother. Good on her. When I was interviewed on radio shows about the connection between spirituality and health, I noticed that when I smiled as I spoke, the timbre of my voice changed. It sounded lighter, brighter and more friendlier. So there’s another happy outcome and benefit of smiling at those we interact with.

  7. Keziah says

    Beverly, thank you for dot points, they are so simple and so doable. I am part of a smallish country community and I find that spontaneious smiling is giving recognition to the existence of our fellow men/women. It is inclusive and acknowledges others in a joyful way that is positive for ourselves as well. It gives us a sense of belonging.Such a small but meaningful practice.

    • says

      Thank you Keziah for your comment. How wonderful to know that you are lighting up your community with your smiles. Well done. I like your idea that a smile is recognizing the presence of others we meet as we move around our town. We never know when such an act will make someone’s day for them. It may be just what they need to brighten their moment.

  8. val says

    Thank you so much for your timely reminder of the positive effects of smiling. I am not naturally a smiley person so what does that say about my inner thoughts and my attitude to life and and those around me?
    I realize that it costs so little to smile but it can help to brighten the day of countless people who pass our way on a daily basis and must consequently increase my own happiness and well being.
    So thank you Beverley you have made my day!

    • says

      Thank you so much Val for your comment. I am quite sure that you have a kind heart. So with a little practice I know that you will be able to show that to others with a cheery smile. Today I saw a “behind-the-scenes” person going about her work in our town centre. I stopped and smiled and thanked her for her good work. She was surprised, but then pleased that someone had acknowledged her efforts. As you said, it costs so little to do that. Hopefully it brightened her day. I know it brightened mine.

  9. Yvonne says

    Thank you for the blog Beverly. I find that there is always something each day that can make you smile even if it only the cat spinning around and around trying to catch her tail! At my local supermarket there are many people of different nationalities and I find that it is easy to smile at many of them when making eye contact. A smile and a comment can quite often turn to laughter which feels good. At a Club I attend each month I sit at the front and look at the ladies and it is so nice to greet them with a smile.How their faces change. I think there is a song which says to “put on a happy face” . It can do wonders. Love Yvonne

    • says

      Well done Yvonne. Thank you for your comment and all the good smiling you do. Yes, ‘putting on a happy face’ does wonders for us and others. It lifts spirits and benefits our mental state.

  10. Kerri says

    Thanks Beverly
    Just as previous responders have said, I notice that when we smile at others, mostly their faces light up as they smile back. It is the genuineness of the friendly outreach that lifts and touches us all. As you say, smiling comes from happy thoughts and we don’t have to dwell on negatives. Filling our thought with positive ideas rather than the reverse is truly beneficial to us all.
    Happy thoughts put a smile on our faces!
    Kerri

    • says

      Thank you Kerri. I quite agree with everything you’ve said. What a treat to be able to smile at another person with genuine warmth. It makes you feel so good. And even if your thoughts are not all that happy, a smile actually lifts your spirit and brings an inner glow. Now that’s got to be good for one’s health.

  11. susan johnson says

    Dear Beverly,

    Yours is a timely reminder and I agree with you absolutely. Working in PR over the years, I found that my smile had become more automatic in the course of my work, than truly genuine.

    Since my life has become more spiritually focused I have found that I have a genuine smile for most of my day, even if I am not necessarily on top of the world personally all the time. I smile at my pets, the child in the street, all bundled up and cheerful in the winter weather, people in the stores, and I most definitely smile as I initiate any kind of conversation. This is almost always greeted with warmth which blesses us all.

    • says

      So glad to have your comment Susan. Thank you for all the genuine smiling you’re doing. You’re community is blessed to have your warmth and caring. Yesterday I smiled at a little fluffy white dog going for a walk with his elderly Chinese owner. And you know what? I got a smile from the man and a wagging tail from his canine companion. It brightened a Melbourne winter’s day.

  12. John Barton says

    I’m still smiling and I still laugh a lot too – though not as much as my 5 year old self. At the age of 20, I met a man much my own age in a hostel where I lived for a short time. He had suffered some profound personal tragedies in his short life. When he related in brief to me the events, it left me for a short time feeling quite sombre. He then went on to say that shortly after these events he found himself seeing the humorous side of everyday events, and found he could laugh at life in a new way. His attitude and disposition seemed to me quite natural and not ‘affected’ in any way and I found him good company. He expressed a joy of life that left a deep and favourable impression on me as I too at this stage of life had under gone a break up from a relationship. His stance and attitude gave me great encouragement in dealing with my own grief at the time. Thanks for this most interesting and relevant post.

    • says

      Thank you John for sharing your experience. It is encouraging to hear that someone can keep smiling and moving forward with their life despite adversity. It shows a buoyancy of spirit that is natural in all of us.

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