The Untapped Power of Smiling
Have you ever wondered how it would be like to have superpowers, to change the world around you or at least change your life and the life of the people you spend the most time with for the better?
If you’ve answered yes and want to know how to do all of this you’re at the right place.
Now, you may already guess by the title of this article that we’re talking about the importance of smiling and what a simple smile can do to change your life and it may sound silly to you at first but you will be surprised when we dwell deep into the science and studies behind the power of smiling.
But before we do that, let me ask you – did you smile today?
WHY DO WE SMILE?
Before we uncover the secret powers of smiling, first we need to understand what makes us laugh and smile in the first place.
Of course, the first thing which pops to our minds when we think of smiling is a funny joke our friend told the other day, a comedy movie filled with amusing scenes which make us lose our breath or even something that someone we love said which feels heartwarming.
However, oddly enough laughter occurs even when we feel afraid or we are nervous about something so we smile as a way of a defense mechanism so we can handle the situation better and you probably yourself laughing before an important event, for example giving a speech or a presentation to an audience.
So we smile because of a bunch of different reasons and some of them are:
- Love – We smile when we see, think and speak to someone we love because we associate good feelings with that person and it’s impossible not to smile.
- Pride – Have you ever seen a father be proud of his child? That moment is so priceless, that it doesn’t even need further explanation.
- Excitement – It’s also impossible not to smile when we feel excited about something great that happened to us because, apparently, the sympathetic nervous system which gets triggered by excitement won’t let us have a frown on our face.
- Joy – When we feel happy we get that sudden burst of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins which all go crazy and they tell our brain: “Hey, you should smile because we said so!”
- Fear – There have been studies conducted on the topic of why we laugh when we’re afraid of something and for the most part it is due to our brain reacting that way because it is under shock or stress so the stimulation shifts from being scary to be funny to us.
Anyhow, there are tons of different reasons why we smile and all are triggered by different situations and emotions, but one thing is for certain and that is, for the most part, smiling means we have emotions and aren’t sociopaths.
Plus, smiling is contagious, so when someone around you starts laughing, you too start smiling without any reason. It’s similar to yawning. You see someone yawn – you yawn as well.
Nonetheless, we associate smiling with pleasant feelings which either trigger laughter or distract us from unpleasant situations.
Also, when we see someone smiling, our brain automatically registers that person as more approachable than someone who is frowning.
THE ORIGINS OF SMILING
According to a study done by a primatologist Signe Preuschoft, the smile can be traced back over 30 million years of evolution by observing monkeys and apes which used a “fear grin” – they clenched their teeth to let predators know that they’re harmless or to show submission to other more dominant monkeys in the group.
It is believed that later smiling evolved within other species but especially within humans as a way of expressing love, happiness, pride, contempt, and even embarrassment and is a way of communicating with others by letting them know how we feel in certain situations.
Oddly enough, Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist explained in his study of behavior called “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” what happens to the human body when we laugh.
He suggested that because we feel pleasure and we’re excited about something, the circulation of our blood flow becomes more rapid, our eyes are more bright and the color of our face changes, while the brain is stimulated by the increased flow of blood reacts in such a way that lively ideas pass rapidly through our mind and we feel warm and caring.
Additionally, he even developed the Facial Feedback Response Theory in which he suggested that smiling can actually make us feel better and not that smiling is just something we do when we feel good.
So the origins of smiling can be traced back to our ape ancestors and it evolved into a way of expressing emotions, and on top of that, we can see that even in ancient times, especially in Ancient Greece, smiling was considered as one of the traits which make up a philosopher.
For that part, Democritus was even called “the Laughing philosopher” as he had a great sense of humor and was known to for smiling during studying. Well, I’ve never seen someone smiling while studying, especially at college, so we can learn a thing or two from ancient philosophers.
Nevertheless, we see that throughout history smiling has been associated with people who are kind, wise, healthy, full of life, etc.
And it’s ironically funny how in every culture across the globe, a smile is sort of a universal symbol for happiness, so no matter where you go if you have a smile on your face you’re basically communicating with the world.
WHAT DOES RESEARCH SAY?
There have been tons of case studies on how smiling affects our health, success in life, life expectancy and so on.
Some of the results have been as expected but a few have been quite shocking, to say the least.
For example, two studies from 2002 and 2011 at the Uppsala University of Sweden tested the Facial Feedback Hypothesis and basically, they found out that our facial muscles not only express our emotions but also can trigger the emotions of other people.
These studies not only answered the question of why when someone smiles we smile too and also explained why it’s hard to keep a frown when we see someone who is smiling.
Since 2001 Professor Stuart Campbell has conducted research to see if babies smile while they’re in the stomach and using a revolutionary 4D scanner researches have found that babies actually do form some facial expressions while they’re in the womb, which, for the most part, resemble a smile.
It’s quite interesting to know that we were smiling even before we were born don’t you think?
Another interesting study was conducted at the Berkley University of California which examined how smiling in the photos of an old college yearbook, in the course of 30 years, affected the lives of the people who were smiling and the ones who didn’t smile at all.
The results were shocking, to say the least. The researchers tested:
- Happy and long-lasting marriages – The people that had the widest smiles on the photograph had the most fulfilling marriages which, obviously, even lasted longer, opposed to the ones who didn’t smile.
- Standardized tests of well-being – As ironic as it may sound, but people who smiled on their yearbook photo have gotten better results on standardized tests of well-being and general happiness than the ones who didn’t.
- Inspiration to others – Studies have reviled that those people who had the widest smile actually later became great role models to their communities, which gets you to think if you should have smiled when you were photographed for your yearbook.
Also, according to Business Insider, a study was conducted in the UK by researchers which used an electromagnetic brain scan and heart-rate monitor to track how various stimulations affect our mood.
They’ve found out that one smile provides the same level of brain stimulation as 2000 chocolate bars.
What’s even more fascinating is that they’ve found out that smiling can be as stimulating to our brain as getting 25,000 dollars!
Side note: Did you know that children smile more than 400 times a day but the average adult smiles only 20 times a day. When you take those $25,000 into the equation, little kids feel like they’re rich all the time.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SMILING
It may seem over-exaggerated, but smiling can also have major health benefits not only for your brain but your whole body too.
As our everyday lives are mostly full of stressful situations, we sometimes even forget to smile on some days.
Let’s see how you can improve your health today with just smiling:
- Natural pain killer – Laughing and smiling both release endorphins which lift your mood and studies have shown that they can even actually lessen the pain. So next time you get hurt, start laughing like a lunatic, maybe it will hurt a little less.
- Lower heart-rate – Smiling has shown to reduce blood pressure and lower heart-rate a well as improving the health of people with chronic heart disease.
- Better mood – As we already said, endorphins get released when you smile and you start to feel more relaxed and not bothered with things which usually fill out your mind enabling you to think straight. With smiling you achieve mindfulness and an overall better mood.
- Productivity – Smiling also can increase your productivity while you perform tasks and when you’re happy with what you do you get more motivated to get things done opposed to being miserable and doing things out of necessity rather than out of enjoyment.
- Longevity – It is believed that people who often smile live 7 years longer than people who don’t. And this all has to do with the health benefits of smiling as it improves our immune system, makes us more relaxed and happy about ourselves. So what are you waiting for? Put this theory to the test!
- Increases attention – Because stress limits our perception and narrows our attention, our bodies tend to switch into fight or flight mode and a great way to remedy this is to smile as it widens our attention and makes us more aware of our surroundings.
And these are just a few health benefits of smiling so there’s a lot more to just smiling when you’re happy, not to mention that you look more attractive to other people when you smile.
So smile whenever an occasion presents itself.
TACKLING STRESS WITH SMILING
There’s a reason we didn’t include reducing stress in the previous list is mainly that this is a much broader topic which needs more attention.
First of all, stress is a serious issue worldwide, but mainly in the business world. Fifty hours a week, underpaid jobs, workloads, tight schedules, working against the clock, unemployment, you name it! All of these situations trigger stress and it’s become an epidemic.
It’s hard to find a decent job nowadays and even harder to find one which makes you happy and not has to be stressed out all the time, one which doesn’t make you a slave of big corporations, but rather a valuable asset to a company.
It’s also hard to maintain such a lifestyle which includes eating out every day, not sleeping properly, not being at home with your family and so on.
So the stress just gets worse and worse as time progresses. And we all know how many illnesses and diseases are linked directly to stress because it’s the trigger
of most health-threatening disorders.
Now, smiling can’t actually make your stress go away immediately, but it can make you feel more relaxed and not worry about the things which stress you out.
Additionally, it can make you be less prone to stress in the future if you start to smile more often than you’re used to.
Basically, it’s all in the mindset. If you’re used to the situations or feelings which stress you out and the next time you experience them, instead of getting angry or sad, try to smile and laugh about it.
This way you’re teaching your brain not to link those situations and feelings with stress and instead link them to humor or joy.
It’s not going to be easy, but if you try to implement smiling and laughter into your stressful situations, you’re going to make it easier for yourself to handle it all and not get an aneurysm from your dead-end job.
Side note: If you’re employed at a job position which makes you miserable, try quitting.
It’s better to have a job with a smaller salary you actually enjoy working than to have a big pay and an even bigger medical receipt for the pills you’re taking to treat your chronic depression.
SMILING AT WORK
Smiling also has some practical uses in the world of business too, but also too much smiling can make you look like a clown at times and damage your career so we’ll walk you through in which situations a simple smile can make you glow up and in which cases it’s not really polite to smile, let alone laugh.
i. When to Smile at Work
- Job interview – Of course when you walk into a job interview all suited-up and glistening with the confidence you should have a smile on your face and be polite with just a touch of arrogance in your talk. But don’t start smirking if the salary is mentioned because it will seem as you’re only want to work because you want money, and not because you want to be a valuable asset to the company.
- Collegiality – Whether you like them or not, your colleagues are necessary for you to operate in your workplace and it wouldn’t kill you to share a smile or two with them even if you don’t like some of them as much or at least fake a smile every morning so you don’t come off as rude.
- Talking to your boss – The same with colleagues applies to your boss. You may not like him, but he’s the reason you’re getting paid, so suck up your pride and give him the widest smile you can when you see him.
- Meeting clients – Every job which requires you to meet with clients means that you should welcome them with a big smile on your face and be polite. You must also remain calm if things start getting out of hand, as most meetings are a hassle and you need to play out even the most awkward situations with a smiling and nodding.
As you can see smiling can give you great benefits and even get you out of awkward situations.
Now we’re not suggesting you fake a smile throughout your whole shift rather that you really start to smile in these situations more often and eventually you won’t even be fake-smiling anymore.
Besides, when people see you smiling, even fake-smiling, they will register you as more approachable, reliable and easy-going and not uptight, grumpy and tensed up.
ii. When Not to Smile at Work
- Board meetings – Board meetings aren’t a good place you should be all witty and smiling because generally, these meetings are for discussing how the business is going and not for making jokes. Of course, if it’s a relaxed environment and everyone is laughing and smiling about something you should too.
- Asking for a raise – Don’t smile when asking for a raise because you’ll seem as being a boot-licker and trust us, you won’t get a raise any time soon. If your boss decides to give you a raise, a simple handshake and a mild smile are more than enough to show your appreciation.
- Emergencies – When something bad happens to the company such as bankruptcy, budget cuts, “labor surplus” and so on, no one wants to see you, goody-two-shoes, all happy and relaxed telling everything will be fine. Because, even if things really do get better, at times of great stress people don’t like it when someone seems like they’re having the time of their life.
Sure smiling can help loosen up the tension which is often felt at work, but it depends on the situation and, at the end of the day, it’s sometimes better to leave the smiling and laughing for the break room.
As you can see smiling can be a double-edged sword when business is involved, but if you use it at just the right moments, you’ll see much more professional to others and will surely get more respect from your colleagues and clients.
To summarize, there are more benefits you can gain from smiling than from any other facial expression. Smiling makes you seem more attractive, out-going, relaxed, and even healthier.
So there’s no real reason you should be an angry and grumpy old man even when things don’t turn out the way you wanted to.
You should smile even when you’re going through the worst times of your life and for one simple reason and that is – you’re alive and well and you have the ability to smile. So we suggest you smile just because you can smile, it won’t hurt.
Actually, as we’ve shown you today, it will rejuvenate you and make your life so much better and worth living.
To end this article, we’ve collected some quotes on smiling said by famous people that we hope will put a smile on your face, or at least a smirk.
“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” – Mother Theresa
“Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” – Marylyn Monroe
“I am so happy to be alive. That’s the one thing I’d like for people to know. Sometimes people walk by and slip up and say the wrong thing about me, and I’ll smile. They wonder why am I smiling. Because I’m happy that I’m alive.” – George Foreman
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