“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Author
For a lot of people, smiling may seem like an involuntary response to something funny, but it is much more significant than that. Research suggests that there are many health benefits of smiling that occur whether a smile is forced or completely natural.
Smiling decreases your body’s stress response
Did you know that a simple smile can decrease stress and anxiety? When you smile, your brain automatically releases endorphins, chemicals that help you to feel joy and happiness. Once released these endorphins travel down our spine sending feel good messages throughout the rest of our body. And it is these endorphins that also help with building closer relationships, stress management and even a better sleep. Some simple ways to naturally release endorphins would be to smile, laugh, exercise, pursue art and creative projects and even a daily meditation practice.
Smiling strengthens your immune system
Smiling can make your immune system stronger by making your body produce white blood cells to help fight disease. One piece of research found that children that were hospitalized who were visited by story-tellers and puppeteers who made them smile and laugh had higher white blood cell counts than those children who weren’t visited.
Smiling can help you live a long and happy life
Research has shown that those that smile tend to be strong leaders, have long lasting and fulfilling relationships and even live seven years longer than those that do not smile. This could be due to the fact that when smiling your body is in a state of rest and your brain can respond in a positive way to what your body is communicating.
Some ways to increase the health benefits of smiling would be to find things to laugh about in your everyday life. Plan a movie night once a week and rent a funny, light hearted comedy. Another smile idea might be to be on the look out for smilies throughout the day.
Did you know that children smile 400-500 times a day? So if you have a child in your home, notice and receive their smile as a special gift just for you. Smile by smile, we can all make a difference in a positive and meaningful way.
Sandee Bandettini, MS, MFT, an Inspired Butterfly, offers resources and classes to nonprofits and schools on mindful ways to live a happy and healthy life. She also volunteers her time to various nonprofits whose focus and attention are on the health and wellbeing of children. For additional information, please email her at: [email protected]