Smiling feels like an automatic response for many people. When they feel happy or see something that entertains them, they smile. Recent research has shown that smiling does more than express emotions, though. It can also improve mental health, physical health and social interactions.
Smiling Can Make People Happier
Even though smiling is a response behavior, people can use smiling to trick themselves into feeling happier and less distressed.
Researchers who suspected that smiling might improve mental health had a group of subjects insert chopsticks into their mouths so they looked like they were smiling. The researchers instructed the second group to force smiles. A third group was told not to smile.
The researchers measured the subjects’ heart rate while forcing them to complete stressful tasks. The scientists discovered that the stress affected the smiling group less than the other groups. Even the group that used chopsticks to fake smiles were less affected than the group that didn’t smile.
These results suggest that people living through stressful moments can improve their happiness and resilience by smiling, even when they don’t feel like doing it.
Smiling Can Improve Heart Health
Smiling affects more than the way people feel. It also affects their physical health. The same research that studied resilience to stress also showed that smiling could lead to better heart health.
A healthy person should have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Athletes often have resting heart rates between 40 and 60 beats per minute.
While smiling can’t replace an exercise program, it can contribute to a person’s overall heart health. When people smile, their bodies don’t experience as much stress.
Over time, this could help prevent heart attacks and other cardiac events.
Smiling Makes Social Interactions Easier
Smiling has a contagious nature. When one person in a group smiles, others are more likely to smile in return. The simple act of smiling can turn a group into a community.
Smiling also makes individuals look more confident, trustworthy, successful and attractive.
Keeping up with oral health makes it easier for people to benefit from smiling. People who have missing teeth, discolored teeth or crooked teeth often feel too embarrassed to smile. If they don’t smile, then they can’t handle stressful situations as well as their peers. They may also become ostracized from groups because they don’t look confident and trustworthy.
Going to the dentist at least twice a year makes it possible for people to maintain healthy teeth so they don’t feel embarrassed by their smiles. The more they smile, the better their lives become.