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Smiling: The Key to a Happier, Healthier Life

While we usually smile subconsciously throughout the day, smiling purposefully can also help you experience its many health benefits. The act of smiling releases endorphins and other hormones that make you feel good. You can use this scientific fact to your advantage—that is, you can smile to increase the amount of endorphins in your body. 

The health benefits of endorphins are numerous. Endorphins can improve self-esteem, reduce depression and anxiety, and reduce pain. They can even encourage weight loss. As a result, you might consider a grin-and-bear-it approach to several different situations. Try smiling when:

  • you feel nervous before public speaking
  • you’re stressed about a deadline or upcoming event
  • you feel sad
  • you’re experiencing pain

Even though it sounds silly, smiling can help you relax in scenarios that test your mental and physical health. Here are the many different ways smiling can improve your health and make you feel great. 

What are the health benefits of smiling?

You can benefit from a smile in many different ways, both mentally and physically. While smiling can relief stress, boost your mood and increase longevity, it can also improve the health of those around you. 

Stress relief

Life is stressful. And family dynamics, workplace culture, academics and many other things can contribute. Flashing a smile can help reduce or increase stress depending on how you do it. Researchers have found that different kinds of smiles have different effects on the amount of stress you experience. Reward smiles are wide and toothy, affiliation smiles are close-lipped and dominance smiles are close-lipped and slanted more like a smirk. Flash a reward or affiliation smile to reduce stress. Avoid dominance smiles in stressful situations because they can potentially increase stress levels. 

Pain relief

While uncomfortable, pain is your body’s way of letting you know something is wrong. But, that doesn’t make it any less inconvenient or undesirable. If you’re in a pinch and need a quick pain relief trick, you might want to try a Duchenne smile (a full smile that reaches the crinkles in your eyelids). People who break out into a Duchenne smile during an injection report 40% less pain than people who had another type of smile or a neutral facial expression. 

A mood boost

Have you ever heard of the expression “fake it til you make it?” One of the best ways to put the adage into action is through smiling. People who smile even when they aren’t feeling happy can induce feelings of happiness simply by smiling. So, if you’re ever feeling down, turn that frown upside down. You’ll start to feel better and before you know it, you may not be faking it anymore.

Lower blood pressure

Almost half of American adults have high blood pressure. It’s a serious condition that increases your risk for adverse health events like heart attack and stroke. Even though it isn’t a replacement for medication and other recommendations from your doctor, smiling and laughing may be able to help. In fact, laughing can decrease your systolic blood pressure.

It’s contagious

Smiling is contagious. When you flash your pearly whites, the people around you can’t help but smile, too. As a result, they can also glean the many health benefits of smiling. So, in a roundabout way, smiling can help lift others’ moods, relieve their stress and pain and even lower their blood pressure. 

Holistic health

Many people keep up with their oral care routine so they have a beautiful smile. Yet, the health of your teeth and gums is closely related to your heart health. The same bacteria that causes most cases of gum disease is linked to heart disease.

How to smile more often: for health, happiness and longevity

There are so many reasons to smile. You can practice smiling to make yourself more comfortable, use a smile to ease discomfort in social situations and maintain your smile with regular dental cleanings to glean all of its benefits.

Whether you’re experiencing positive feelings, or just faking it to improve your mental and physical health, the benefits of a grin are undeniable. 

Ready to book a doctor’s appointment? Visit Zocdoc.

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The Paper Gown, a Zocdoc-powered blog, strives to tell stories that help patients feel informed, empowered and understood. Views and opinions expressed on The Paper Gown do not necessarily reflect those of Zocdoc, Inc. Learn more.