The problem: You’re down in the dumps, your marriage is in a slump, and you should have been promoted ages ago.
The solution? Flash the biggest, sparkliest smile you can muster (and get ready to reap the benefits).
Okay, you may not be able to solve all of life’s problems with a grin, but smiling doesprovide a number of health benefits, both physical and psychological. According to recent research, flashing your pearly whites may help you look younger, feel happier, have healthier relationships, and more.
Take a look at all of the health benefits of beaming. We dare you not to crack a smile!
Don’t feel like smiling? Then fake it until you make it, sister.
According to a number of studies, simply making the effort to grin (and bear it!) can improve your mood instantly. “Emotions are felt through the whole body, not just in the brain,” explains researcher Michael Lewis, PhD, of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom. One study, led by Dr. Lewis, looked at participants who had recently received Botox injections and were physically unable to frown because of the procedure. The participants reported feeling happier and less anxious — and the researchers partly chalked it up to their inability to pout.
The benefits may also be lasting: “One famous study showed that people who gave a fuller smile in their high school yearbook were happier in later life,” says Lewis. But if you simply can’t summon one up, try this trick: Hold a pen sideways in your mouth so that it forces the sides of your mouth upwards.
Forget the expensive wrinkle creams — turns out, smiling may be the only anti-aging prescription you need.
During a recent study published in the journal Psychology and Aging, researchers asked participants to guess the age of adult strangers in photographs. The results? The judges consistently underestimated the age of the photographed people who were wearing happyexpressions; however, they were more likely to guess age correctly if the person wore a neutral expression.
Could grinning be the key to success in your career and your marriage? Indeed, research has found that happy, smiling people may thrive better in the workplace and in relationships.
Okay, okay — but these people are probably in high spirits because of their success, right? Contrary to intuition, a number of studies show that happiness often precedes success — meaning the participants were more likely to be successful because of their happy demeanor. And it starts young: A study from DePauw University found that big-grinned kids had lower divorce rates later in life.
Want to make a lasting impression? Flash those pearly whites!
According to research published in the journal Neuropsychologia, our brains may be programmed to pay particular attention to smiling faces. Study participants who were shown pictures of smiling strangers and strangers with neutral expressions were better able to recall the smiling faces later. An analysis of their brain activity showed strong response in certain areas of the brain to smiling faces over neutral faces.
Need a hug? Smile at your honey (or, hey, perhaps even at a stranger)!
“The smile is also an approach cue,” explains Lewis, who notes that one study of 52 adult women found that participants were quick to take a step closer to a smiling face but had to pause briefly if they were instructed to step toward an angry face. (And it makes sense: Who’d want to snuggle up close to a ticked-off person, anyway?)
A recent study published in the journal Emotion proved what many of us have known for years: A smiling face is more appealing (at least when it comes to women).
Participants were shown photos of adults sporting a number of various expressions (including big, beaming grins), and they consistently rated smiling women as the most attractive. “Our thinking is that smiling probably makes women look more feminine, which increases female attractiveness,” says head researcher Jessica Tracy, PhD, an associate professor in the psychology department at the University of British Columbia. “Another possibility is that smiling makes women appear receptive (sexually), which, of course, is appealing to men.”
However, this study surprisingly found that smiley men do not have the same appeal to women — instead, females were drawn to the serious, brooding type.
You can catch a cold and the chickenpox — but did you know that you can also catch someone’s smileyness?
Think about it: When someone beams at you on the street, you almost always smile back (even if subconsciously). In an issue of the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, experts explain that our brains look for and respond to smiling faces — likely before we are even aware of our response. And researchers have also found a similar effect for frowning (a good reason to keep your distance from that grumpy guy in your office).
When someone takes notice of your smile, they are more inclined to work cooperatively with you, according to the results of three studies out of New Zealand.
This is good news for grinners with goals to achieve, but take note: The type of smile matters. Viewers say they most want to cooperate with people whose smile indicates a genuine enjoyment of the project or situation.
Constantly complemented on your fabulous smile? That probably means you’ve been taking good care of your pearly whites (kudos!).
But the benefits of a pretty pout go beyond appearance: In a survey of adults aged 35 to 47 conducted in Norway, researchers found that a measly 1 percent of participants said oral health had nothing to do with their quality of life. Others said that poor oral health, such as losing teeth in adulthood, affected everything from their eating comfort to their ability to smile.
Constant grinners have plenty to be happy about: They have lower stress-hormone levels, they measure off better when it comes to physical health (such as having healthier hearts), and they may even enjoy better psychological coping mechanisms, according to research published in the Journal of Personality.
And happiness researchers agree: Just as a smile can be an indicator of health and happiness, a good attitude can also improve a person’s life health overall.
Smiles are almost always welcome — but that doesn’t mean you should force it if you’re just not feeling it.
Actually, wearing a phony grin can worsen your mood, according to research published in the Academy of Management Journal. The researchers followed a group of bus drivers for two weeks — on days that the drivers forced themselves to smile to their customers, their moods tended to deteriorate. However, when the participants attempted to cultivate happy thoughts to trigger a smile, their moods improved.