Do you find yourself smiling when you see a smiley face on Facebook or any social media?
How about when people smile at you? Well, in most cases you automatically smile back- isn’t it? Unless of course you are fuming at that time for some reason or are very sad.
A smile is like a mirror. If you smile at someone, that person will automatically smile back at you. Whether it’s a grin, beam or smile it instantly instils a sense of good vibes and happiness. We connect with people through a smile.
‘A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear.’
True, however beautifully one is dressed, if the person is frowning or scowling it wouldn’t make her/him look pleasant. Yet, even if a person is dressed very casually and smiles the person becomes attractive.
A smile is so powerful that poets and writers have sung praises of its beauty through centuries.
We are born with the ability to smile, but as we age, with all the worries of life we tend to smile less. Research shows that children smile an average of 400 times each day. Whereas, an average happy adult smiles 40-50 times on average each day.
A genuine smile is an automatic response without us realising it. Our laughter is also produced without thinking. These two responses occur when we are truly content and happy.
Smiles aren’t always a result of pure happiness or contentment but are also prompted as a social signal. We smile and laugh when we want to be polite and likeable, to make our presence noticeable; to express our agreement with others’ feelings or sometimes to suppress our embarrassment.
Smiling is one of the very few human gestures that cross language barriers around the globe.
It’s recognised as a universal expression of happiness and good nature. It can open doors to the hearts of even those people whose minds and cultures are unknown to you.
It may seem to be a very simple facial expression but it works wonders on our mental and physical health, social lives and lifespans. Studies show that those who consciously or subconsciously smile more live a better and healthier life.
When we smile, certain muscles in our face are activated and help the brain to release endorphins, dopamine and serotonin known as ‘happy hormones’ resulting in a happy and relaxed mood. The endorphins relieve mild pain and the serotonin works as an antidepressant. The brain also releases neuropeptides which alleviate anxiety and stress. Smiling also raises levels of immune cells and increases infection-fighting antibodies strengthening the immune system.
Smiling and laughing can reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Aren’t these reasons enough to start smiling?
If you’re sad, force yourself to smile. A study, published by the American Psychological Association, found that if you’re having a bad day - a smile, even if it’s forced, can trick your brain into thinking something positive is happening and generate positive emotions to boost your mood and happiness level.
Ron Gutman, the author of ‘Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act’, says in his book that British researchers have found that one smile can generate up to the same level of brain stimulation as 2,000 bars of chocolate.
Smiling is contagious. The benefits of smiling aren’t just limited to yourself; In addition to making you look more attractive and approachable, it also affects those around you. We know, now, how our brains react when we smile. It’s interesting to know that when we see someone else smile it triggers our brain automatically to mirror the smile and makes us feel a little better. Thus smiling creates a ripple effect of happiness and plays an important role in building strong bonds between individuals and helps us have better social relationships. Laughter has also been connected to emotional well-being in couples.
‘Smile, it’s the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart.’
The benefits of happiness generated through a smile carry over to our workplace too.
After research conducted on 3,000 people in nine countries by Jessica Pryce-Jones, the author of 'Happiness at Work', and her team, they concluded: “Happiness at work is closely correlated with greater performance and productivity as well as greater energy, better reviews, faster promotion, higher income, better health and increased happiness with life.” Another study found the release of dopamine triggered by happiness helps us to focus on decision-making.
Many of us spend one-third of our day in the workplace. It’s time to start smiling and avail yourself of these opportunities.
The job of healthcare workers is difficult. It deals with ailments and infirmities which can have negative emotional impacts on them. The simple act of smiling can significantly boost their morale. Patients, on the other hand, may also have positive emotions and their pain is reduced with the mirror effect of the caregiver’s smile.
It’s said that laughter is the best medicine. Add a smile to it. It will work wonders.
Boosting greater health benefits, better social relationships and a stronger overall feeling of happiness can help lessen the physical effects of ageing. Gear up: A simple remedy to stay young is to smile and laugh more often.
Research also suggests those who genuinely smile more often live five to seven years longer than those who don’t.
Isn’t smiling more worth trying?
Smiling can be practised by everyone, every day. A life filled with smiles promotes a healthier and happier life.
Though smiling isn’t easy when we’re stressed and tired or at the receiving end of some bad news, we can try to incorporate a few habits in our daily lives to help us smile more often.
● Practise gratitude in the morning.
● Spend time in nature. It can enhance your mood and well-being.
● Be kind to others and yourself too. Helping others almost always puts a smile on your face.
● Watch a funny movie or read something which makes you laugh.
● Recollect beautiful memories from the past. Go through an album.
● Share your happiness with your loved ones. Spend time regularly with friends who make you laugh and smile.
● Go for some sort of sport or activity. Even if you can’t play or do the activity, it will make you laugh.
● Remind yourself to smile. How about putting a big smiley on different places where your eyes normally roam?
● Smile when you are stuck in traffic or shopping. Smile at people around you.
● Force a smile, even if it’s fake, it will reduce stress. The first step to being happier is smiling even when you don’t feel like it.
Once you acquire these habits, these will become a set pattern in your daily life.
Every year on the first Friday of October the world celebrates World Smile Day. The day is observed to remember to smile and spread random acts of kindness. This year it falls on 7 October.
Harvey Ball, a commercial artist, created the yellow smiley face in 1963 for a State Mutual Life Insurance company campaign. He aimed to spread goodwill and happiness throughout the world. But as the smiley face was becoming too commercialised, he declared the first Friday of October each year to be dedicated to smiles.
Smiling reminds us to think positively and let go of the negativities of life.
COVID-19 has affected most of us in various ways and depression has seized many. Now, more than ever, it’s important to smile and spread positivity around.
‘Use your smile to change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile.’
[Tasneem Hossain is a multilingual poet, columnist, op-ed and fiction writer, translator and training consultant. She is the Director of Continuing Education Centre, Bangladesh.]
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for consultation with a licensed healthcare practitioner.
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3. Psychology to Grin about: The benefits of Smiling and Laughter, UWA Online, June 6, 2019
4. Project Team Building by the Criterion of fulfillment (happiness): main problems and conceptual baselines, Cyberleninka