Smile for Your Health

Published on: 10/03/2021

Why is smiling good for our health? Find more reasons to smile with these benefits.

We have all heard that saying about laughter being the best medicine. Nonetheless, at times when a shared joke or a funny movie is not available, even the simple act of smiling can bring about benefits that will certainly light up your face.

As Filipinos, we are known for our hospitality that is felt through our warm smiles and sunny disposition. Smiling is deeply rooted in our culture and it has been said that we can find humor in most situations. Therefore, we can appreciate the following advantages that smiling can do for our health.

What’s in a real smile?

When we smile, we activate the muscle that controls the corners of our mouth - the zygomaticus major. However, without activating the orbicularis oculi (the muscle that encircles our eye socket), the smile is not actually a genuine smile. Therefore, you will know that it is real and not just what scientists call a “social smile” when it involves both these facial muscles. 

Also known as the Duchenne smile, this expression raises your cheeks, allowing for laugh lines to appear at the outside corners of your eyes. It was named after 19th-century scientist Guillaume Duchenne, whose work includes mapping the muscles of the human body. 

What happens when we smile?

With the movement of our facial muscles upon smiling, we trigger our brain to release neurotransmitters, such as endorphins. Endorphins function to reduce pain and boost a feeling of well-being, which is why it is considered one of the happy hormones. Aside from this, certain hormones like dopamine and serotonin are also released. They are known to increase our feelings of happiness and reduce stress, respectively.

The benefits of smiling

Aside from elevating our mood and relieving us from stress, smiling has been associated with boosting our immune system. This can be attributed to the fact that when we smile, our immune function improves because we are in a relaxed state. 

ENT-otolaryngologist Dr. Murray Grossan cited the science of psychoneuroimmunology, which is a relatively new field of study on how the brain is connected to the immune system. According to him, depression has been shown to weaken our immune system and happiness can boost our body’s resistance to illnesses. 

Furthermore, researchers have discovered how smiling can reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, and even contribute to the longevity of our life.

What if you don’t feel like smiling?

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep your spirits up, and forcing a smile could only lead to more stress. Try these gentler approaches to find the smile back on your face:

  • Keep chopsticks handy - In a study conducted by psychological scientists from the University of Kansas, they asked participants to hold chopsticks in their mouths to simulate a Duchenne smile while they were multitasking. This helped reduce the stress levels for the group compared to those participants who held neutral facial expressions. 
  • Practice in front of the mirror - Now that you know which facial muscles to activate, just try moving one or both of them at a time. This exercise might actually work to make you invoke the right emotion, and smile for real. 
  • Actively seek out the things that make you smile - whether it’s a favorite song, a picture of a loved one, or a funny meme, there are a lot of reasons to smile. Find at least one thing that brings you joy, no matter how small.

Because ultimately, one of the best benefits of smiling is that it is contagious - sooner or later those around you will be smiling back as well.