When we’re happy or pleased, we smile. We actually take smiling for granted. I mean, when was the last time you thought about the health benefits of smiling?

But there really are some surprising health benefits to smiling. It’s not just about having a beautiful set of teeth, though that certainly makes you feel better in every way.

The fact is, smiling actually can improve your life in ways you probably never imagined.

young man smiling black and white photo

Image: by Stefan Stefancik, via Pexels

Health Benefits of Smiling

Most people know that smiling will help you make friends and present themselves as a positive person people would like to know, but the health benefits of smiling go beyond all of that.

Lowers blood pressure

When people experience high blood pressure, smiling and laughing actually helps bring these levels down. In fact, a 2009 study demonstrated how even a few giggles increase the heart rate and cause muscle relaxation.

In turn, this decreases blood pressure and heart rate. Both of these things help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Strengthens immunity

A study conducted in 2015 found that women who are post-partum had stronger immune systems after participating in laughter therapy.

What happens is that smiling signals molecules to the brain, fighting off illness. Then, having a higher immune system results in you getting sick less often.

Also, the Mayo Clinic reports that positive thoughts and laughter have similar effects that help fight stress and illnesses. So you can benefit from not only smiling more, but also laughing more.

Hey, where’s this laughter therapy? Sign us up!

Relieves stress

Stress contributes negatively to so many diseases, sometimes actually making you vulnerable to diseases or making them worse. Some of them include:

  • The common code
  • Weight gain
  • Slowed healing
  • Sleep dysfunction
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Stomach problems and ulcers
  • Back, shoulder, and neck pain
  • Acne
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Changes in libido
  • Digestive issues
  • Sweating

Yikes, that’s quite a list!

Can a smile relieve stress enough to cure all of this? I think no one will make that claim, but the research links in the article we referenced above show that the health benefits of smiling can make a difference in your health.

As a matter of fact, a 2015 study showed that the health benefits of smiling include lowered heart rate in a moment of stress.

So feeling stressed? Try to find something to smile about (and quickly!). It will help.

Improves mood

Ever heard of the concept of “fake it til you make it”? As it turns out, smiling during stressful situations or tense situations can actually give you a quick boost.

Correspondingly, a 2010 study shows that when you smile, you can improve your positive thoughts and feel better about most situations.

Reduces pain

There’s no evidence to suggest that smiling makes pain disappear. However, one study found that social laughter is powerful medicine and increases the pain thresholds of people suffering from pain.

The thing is, pain causes stress, and aggravates most other conditions. If you can get even a tiny bit of relief from chronic or temporary pain, your health will improve overall.

Attracts others

Looking for love? Or just a friend to hang out with? Start smiling.

Here’s the deal:

Smiling is contagious. Because of the health benefits of smiling, you’ll actually attract positive people to your life. Having a good friend group will help you feel better in every way.

Enhances relationships

Now that you’ve attracted others with your beautiful smile, you can have better relationships with the people you’ve attracted to your life.

Very few people live in complete isolation. Most of us have to deal with other human beings on most days. We have relationships with these people, and if they’re negative, they affect our health.

However, if we have positive relationships, they also affect our health, and for the better.

A study conducted in 2014 found that if you smile more, you’re more likable to the people you encounter. This gives you an edge over people who smile less.

Increases work effectiveness

You probably spend at least eight hours per day at a job, being around other people. Studies show that if you smile more, you’ll feel happier. If you’re happier, you’ll be more productive, more likely to be promoted, and more energetic.

Doing well at work has a definite positive influence on health because you’ll be less stressed than people who struggle at work.

Health benefits of smiling: you’ll live longer

Want to live to see your grandchildren graduate from college. Well, smile, smile, smile.

Some researchers analyzed Major League Baseball players in 1952 and found that the ones who had even a partial smile in their photos actually lived a full two years longer than those who weren’t smiling in their photos.

But check this out:

The ones with big cheese-eating infectious grins lived nearly seven years longer than the guys who didn’t smile.

How to Smile More to Reap the Health Benefits of Smiling

Now that you know all of the health benefits of smiling, let’s go over some ways to get more of those smiles going.

smile post-it note

Image: by Kat Jayne, via Pexels

Post-it challenge

With the post-it challenge, you gather 10-20 bright and colorful post-it notes and write down places, things, and people that usually make you smile. Then, stick them all around wherever you spend most of your time.

This challenge works particularly well if you write down your smile prompts in the morning and post them around. Keep in mind that the actual practice of writing these things out helps you smile. Consequently, be sure to write them down every day instead of recycling the previous day’s notes.

Social media collage of smiles

Using a web tool, create a simple collage of smiles (yours or other people) and post it to social media.

This is especially effective if you make the collage with photos of yourself, friends, and family doing an activity you enjoy. Not only will their smiles make you smile, but the memories of the day you took the photos will make you feel good.

Waiting smile challenge

One great way to smile more and enjoy the health benefits of smiling is to catch yourself when you’re waiting somewhere. This can include being stuck in traffic, at the grocery store, the post office, or wherever. Smile at people and see if they smile back.

You never know when a simple smile can brighten someone else’s day, too.

The Most Common Types of Smiles

Scientists have determined that there are 19 different types of smiles. But here’s the weird part: only some of them are for happiness.

woman afro natural hair smiling

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The Duchenne smile

The Duchenne is the most common smile. It involved the mouth turning up, eyes narrowing, then eyes crinkling. See our closing section for more about the Duchenne smile.

Fear smile

When some species of chimpanzees are afraid, they expose their teeth and draw back their lips to expose their gums. But did you know that people actually do it, too?

This smile is actually a gesture of submission. Low-status individuals use this smiling, usually unknowingly, to appeal to more dominant group members.

Misery smile

The misery smile is the stoic grin and bear it smile that we all get sometimes. It’s an asymmetric, slight smile that has an expression of sadness over the top. To some people, it can look like a smirk.

Dampened smile

With the dampened smile, people are attempting to control a happy, automatic smile. With this smile, the cheeks are raised but we then pull the corners of the mouth somewhat downwards and press the lips together.

Embarrassed smile

The embarrassed smile is identical to the dampened smile, but the embarrassed smile is often accompanied by flushed cheeks. Another identifier is that the embarrassed smile also features moving the head downwards and to the left slightly.

Qualifier smile

With the qualifier smile, you’re basically waiting to disappoint someone. One example is the checkout clerk who sees you in line for 15 minutes, then tells you nicely that her checkout is closed. This smile’s goal is to take the edge off of bad news.

It begins rather abruptly with the lower lip slightly raised. Also, it is accompanied by a sideways and downward tilt of the head.

Contempt smile

This is one most of us recognize. This smile usually indicates a mixture of resentment and contempt. Surprisingly, it’s similar to a smile of genuine delight except that the corners of the mouth will appear tightened.

Angry-enjoyment smile

This smile is the schadenfreude smile, which is delighting in the misery of others.

This smile sometimes feels like delicious mischievousness.

Fake smile

We’ve all done and seen this smile. The fake smile is easily spotted by looking at the eyes. However, we can voluntarily contract our eyes so that our fake smiles look genuine.

The Health Benefits of Smiling: Are They Real?

Want to know something awesome? Forced and even fake smiles make you feel better. Although this may be true, genuine smiles offer the best benefits of smiling.

But what exactly is a “real smile.” As it turns out, a “genuine smile” actually has a scientific name and basis. It’s called the Duchenne smile. The Duchenne smile causes the cheeks and eyes to raise naturally.

Here is a good example of some beautiful Duchenne smiles.

duchenne smile benefits of smiles group smiling

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So now that you know the health benefits of smiling, you’re ready to take on the world and live to be a healthier you!

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