7 ways smiling is good for your health

Excerpt: People who smile often not only have better social relationships but enjoy a wide range of physical and emotional health benefits. Smiling helps to boost mood, ease stress, lower blood pressure and strengthen the immune system. Genuine and more intense smiles are also associated with greater resilience, increased pain tolerance and longer life.

People who are cheerful and smile often have better social relationships,* according to a 2019 study in Brain Sciences. That’s because happy faces are welcoming and communicate an invitation to interact, the researchers suggest.

Smiles do more, however, than let the world know you’re happy and encourage people to approach you. A beaming face, smiling eyes and the underlying positive emotions also can improve your physical and emotional health in a surprising number of ways:

  1. Boost Mood
    The facial expression of smiling lifts a person’s mood,* while scowling makes people angrier and frowning makes them sadder, according to a study in Psychological Bulletin that combined data from 138 studies and over 11,000 participants.

  2. Relieve stress
    Holding a smile during periods of stress, especially a genuine smile where the muscles around the mouth and eyes shape the smile, reduces the body’s stress response* and lowers heart rate after recovery from stress, according to a study in Psychological Science.

  3. Lower blood pressure
    A University of Maryland School of Medicine study found that laughter helps blood vessels function better, increasing blood flow and lowering blood pressure.*

  4. Strengthen immune function
    Older adults who were smiling and happy when they received annual flu shots produced up to 14% more protective antibodies* and were less likely to get sick, according to a study in Brain, Behaviour and Immunity.

  5. Ease pain
    Laughter and humour can increase pain tolerance* and improve quality of life, reported a Zurich University study. Humour and a positive outlook help control pain by releasing endorphins and relieving muscle tension, the Swiss researchers suggest.

  6. Be more resilient
    Smiling helps people to cope better with difficult emotional events. Bereaved spouses who smiled or laughed more as they talked about their relationship with the deceased partner, six months after their loss, were better at managing their grief* 25 months after the person passed away than those who smiled less, reported the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

  7. Live longer
    A 2010 study in Psychological Science of more than 200 Major League Baseball players found that those who showed more intense and genuine smiles lived longer* than non-smilers and they were about half as likely as non-smilers to die in any given year.*

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:
1. University of Basel. “The motivational power of the happy face.” (2019), online: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3425/9/1/6
2. University of Tennessee at Knoxville. “Smiling can make people happier.” (2019), online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190412094728.htm
3. Association for Psychological Science. “Grin and bear it! Smiling facilitates stress recovery.” (2012), online: https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/smiling-facilitates-stress-recovery.html
4. University of Maryland School of Medicine. “School of Medicine shows laughter helps blood vessels function better.” (2005), online: https://www.a4m.net/news/university_of_maryland_school_of_medicin/
5. Daily Mail. “SMILE when you go for the flu jab.” (2017), online: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4918574/If-SMILE-flu-jab-work-better.html
6. Medical News Today. “Laughing away pain.” (2013), online: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267434.php
7. Bonanno, George, Keltner, Dacher. “Facial expressions of emotion and the course of conjugal bereavement.” (1997), online: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/dacherkeltner/docs/bonanno.abnormal.1997.pdf
8. Abel, Ernest, Kruger, Michael. “Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity.” (2010), online:https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797610363775
9. Social Psych online. “The power of a smile.” (2017), online: http://socialpsychonline.com/2017/05/smile-psychology-science/