I am one of 3,376,833 people in a Facebook group called Smiling. I’m a natural-born smiler. I respond well to smiling and as I travel the world leading life coaching retreats, I love to photograph people everywhere doing this common, lip-corner-upturn-thing. It confirms for me that smiling really is a shared, “universal language of kindness” to quote William Arthur Ward.
Current studies show that whether you are fake smiling—using only your zygomatic major muscles around your mouth—or authentically smiling—which also includes some muscles around your eyes, the benefits are profound. Therefore, the "fake it til you make it" philosophy may actually have some merit.
Smile first = be happy later!
Here are 5 reasons to smile:
1. Smiling reduces stress.
Psychological Science, one of the top 10 psychology journals worldwide, recently printed a study out of the University of Kansas showing that smiling, even under stress, actually reduces stress and helps us feel better.
“Peace begins with a smile.” — Mother Teresa
2. Smiling improves how you feel.
Ron Gutman, author of Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act writes, “Lots of smiling can actually make you healthier. Smiling can help reduce the level of stress-enhancing hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine; increase the level of mood-enhancing hormones like endorphin; and reduce overall blood pressure.”
“Just smiling goes a long way toward making you feel better about life. And when you feel better about life, your life is better.” —Art Linkletter
3. Smiling spreads joy, it is socially contagious.
The smile contagion has been studied since the 1980s and has been proven a number of times. A 1984 article in the journal Science showed that people mimic emotional expressions. We often read about the negative impact of social contagions but here is an easy way to make a positive difference.
Smiling at others inspires them to mimic your behavior and smile back at you. Try it at the grocery store. And remember, as Shinichi Suzuki explains, “Children learn to smile from their parents.” We have a responsibility to teach smiling first and foremost in our homes.
“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower…, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.” — Leo Buscaglia
4. Smiling increases likability.
Psychologist Albert Mehrabian’s likability formula includes this fun fact: “Body language contributes more than 50 percent to our overall likability.” Your facial expression while talking is actually more important than the words you speak. At the very least, the two should be in alignment.
As Maya Angelous puts it, “People will forget what you said but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment relates that smiling is the very first thing you can do to get people to like you. In relationships and in business, people want to spend time with those they like. Smiling makes us more likable.
“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
5. Smiling builds relationships.
Smiling connects us with others. Our humanness interprets smiling as a gesture of trustworthiness and friendliness. Science tells us it makes us more approachable.
"Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." — Leo F. Buscaglia
Sometimes, the answers are easy. Smiling is one of those simple things you can do to impact your quality of life and the lives of those around you. Why not make things better for one another? And according to research in Psychological Science, even reading this article today with words like smile, grin, laugh can improve the way we feel, because it activates our facial muscles.
Are you smiling right now?
Try it for a week: smile even if you don’t have a reason.
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