Six happy reasons to smile more
As facial expressions go, your smile is pretty powerful.
1. Smiling makes you more attractive
According to a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, smiling can make you better looking. It can also help you to appear more sincere, sociable and competent (result!). In a more recent study, psychologists at Swansea University asked volunteers to rate the ‘health’ of different facial expressions. They found that “faces look healthier when they are smiling, compared to a neutral expression” and “the effect of having a positive expression on the ratings was similar to that from having a good BMI, using makeup, or looking young rather than old”.
2. Your dog will love you (even more)
Your dog probably adores you regardless of your facial expression, but smile and they might just love you a little bit more. New research has shown that dogs’ facial expressions change when humans smile at them. Give your furry friend a grin and if they respond with puppy dog eyes this is apparently their way of communicating. The study wisely ensured that food didn’t create the same response!
3. Smiling boosts your mood
Smiling not only helps you to look better, but feel better too. It releases endorphins, which can help to lift your mood and reduce stress. One study looked at the effect of smiling on our response to stress and found that volunteers who smiled while carrying out a stressful task had a lower heart rate afterwards. Best of all, your brain doesn’t know if you’re sporting a fake smile or a real one – so even a forced smile can help you to relax.
4. Smiling is universal
If you’re ever lost for words, try flashing a smile. Smiling is universally understood (even by dogs it would seem) and is often said to be the ‘universal language of kindness’. In Europe we are apparently more reserved with our smiles, saving them for special occasions. Whereas Americans will frequently smile at others – even strangers! Interestingly, one study found that volunteers couldn’t identify whether someone in a photo was Australian or American – until they smiled. See if you can guess the nationality of these athletes based on their smiles.
5. Smiling strengthens your immune system
With the threat of winter colds looming, you may want to consider smiling more for your own protection. Smiling can apparently encourage your body to produce more white blood cells, which are important for overall health and protecting yourself against illness. One study looked at the white blood cell count of hospitalised children and the impact of visits from story tellers, puppeteers and handicraft artists. The study found that the children’s immune systems did in fact benefit from the extra attention.
6. Smiling can improve your career prospects
If you have your eye on a new job or promotion, a smile may be the best thing you can add to your CV. Research tell us that smiling can make you seem more productive and approachable. Moreover, a study at the University of Pittsburgh highlighted how a smile can help you to look more trustworthy. So, next time there’s a meme making its way around your office, share a smile with your colleagues.
You can help others to experience the above benefits – just by smiling! When we see someone smile, it activates an area of our brain that controls facial movement, causing us to smile too. Smile and see what happens.