Go Ahead and Smile!

With the current Fitbit craze, you’re probably aware of the health benefits of getting in 10,000 steps a day. But are you aware of all of the health benefits of smiling?

I’d like to invite you to do a little experiment. Put a smile on your face right now and leave it there for 30 seconds. Notice how it makes you feel.  According to the facial feedback hypothesis, facial muscles not only express emotions, but they also have the ability to modulate how you feel. In other words, if you put a smile on your face you can change from feeling angry or anxious to feeling happier or initiate a happy feeling “out of the blue.” When you smile, you are literally sending messages to your brain that you’re happy and eventually you agree.

Smiling doesn’t just help you feel happier, it also helps you be more effective at the workplace. People want to do business with people who smile. According to astudy from Penn State University, people who smile appear to be more likable, courteous, and competent.

The Harvard School of Public Health reported that having a positive outlook on life; feeling enthusiastic, hopeful, and engaged; and bouncing back from stressful events are all known to lead to a happier life and help you avoid or manage diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression.  Smiling can help you feel more positive and hopeful. A smile can help turn a stressful event into an interesting (maybe even funny) challenge.

Unfortunately for adults, we have forgotten how to smile.  Adults, on average, manage only 20 smiles a day, while children smile about 400 times a day!! So we have some practicing to do. Maybe Fitbit should add a recording on their device for the number of times you smile each day.

Until then, here are some tips for times to practice smiling.

  • When you’re sitting at a meeting at work or listening to a presentation, smile at the person who is talking. Not only will your colleagues appreciate a friendly face, but you will feel better and more focused as a result.
  • When you’re working on the computer you can just randomly smile (like I am doing now).
  • When you are walking down the street, smile at the people passing by. They might think you are up to something, but you could also add a little brightness to them and you.
  • When you’re talking to someone on the phone, smile and you will sound happier to the person on the other end of the line.
  • When you’re feeling irritated, impatient, or angry, put a smile on your lips and see how long it takes to change your mood.
  • When you’re doing your sitting meditation or yoga practice you can bring a slight smile to your lips.

Try your smile practice for a week and see if you don’t feel better and notice that people are responding to you in a friendlier manner.  It could be as important as getting your steps.