Forget the apple. What we should be doing instead is forging a smile a day to keep the doctor away. Why? Research has found that people who smile often have increased wellbeing and experience a range of other benefits too.
In one longitudinal study, researchers LeeAnne Harker and Dacher Keltner (2001) analysed the 1965 college yearbook photographs of 114 women and coded their smiles depending on whether they showed a genuine smile, known as a Duchenne smile, where the corners of the mouth go up and the skin crinkles around the eyes, or a non-Duchenne smile. It was found some thirty years later that those that showed a Duchenne smile experienced less negativity, greater competence, more positive ratings from others, greater wellbeing and were more likely to get and stay married.
Smiling and laughter have also been shown to impact the duration of grief. In a study of individuals who had lost their partners, researchers found that those that laughed and showed Duchenne smiles experienced increased engagement in life and had tried dating 2 ½ years later compared with those that were angry. Additionally, another study looked at childhood photographs and found that the absence of smiling was able to predict divorce later in the life (Hertenstein et al., 2009).
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.Thich Nhat Hanh
How does smiling benefit us?
Smiling affects our brain by releasing the neuropeptides used to fight off stress (Seaward, 2017). When we smile, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are released, which enable us to feel good, relax, and lower our heart rate and blood pressure (Lane & Nadel, 2000). Smiling has the tendency to also make us look younger, thinner and more attractive, seem more successful and confident, it can help us remain positive and build connections with others. What’s more, smiling is contagious and can therefore have a positive impact on the people around us too.
In one of the most interesting studies undertaken, a test was completed to determine whether the removal of frown lines would help people become happier. Ten clinically depressed patients were administered muscle paralysing botulinum toxin A aka Botox to their frown lines. Two months later, nine out of the ten participants were no longer depressed and the tenth had improved their situation (Finzi & Wasserman, 2006). This study highlights the benefits of not frowning and Botox beyond anti-ageing.
More evidence exists that suggests smiling is good for us. And researchers are yet to uncover any negative side effects from smiling too much (apart from the crow’s feet)!
So I encourage you – add a smile to your dial.