Smiling is one of the first things we do as developing babies; in fact, we even do it in the womb. It’s one of the first emotional communication methods we learn and it’s one we learn to recognise very early on.
We smile to have our picture taken, for our families, friends and loved ones. When we’re happy and laughing, pleased, excited or content, it is a very natural bodily reaction. And when we see others smile, it instils similar feelings in ourselves. There is something wonderful about seeing your loved one smile, and then realising it’s because of you.
Often, it might be something we resent being told to do, and for those of us with RBF, it’s something we have to make an effort to do.
But smiling, and laughing, has some exceptional benefits for us and with World Smile Day coming’s up tomorrow on October 2nd, here are some excellent reasons to show off those pearly whites.
- Smiling can strengthen our immune system:
In 2012, a study was done which found that laughter therapy significantly improved the immune responses in post-partum women. Smiling and laughing releases molecules in our brain that fight stress and illness, so the more we smile, the stronger our immune system can get.
- It can help to reduce pain:
When we smile, our brain releases endorphins which act as pain relief and can increase both pain threshold and tolerance.
- Smiling and laughing reduces our blood pressure and heart rate:
When we laugh, our heart rate rises at first. After which, our muscles relax and our heart rate and blood pressure lowers, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- It can help to reduce stress:
Since when we smile, our heart rate and blood pressure decreases, smiling can help us navigate stressful situations. Although pick and choose these moments really, there are some situations where smiling isn’t quite appropriate. Stress has negative effects on the body, so keeping it down is an important way to care for yourself.
As well as having benefits for our physical health, smiling can also improve our mental health. When we smile, our brain releases serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and neuropeptides. Serotonin and dopamine, as we know by now, are crucial for helping with our mood. Endorphins, as mentioned above, are what act as pain relief and the neuropeptides are what help to fight off stress. Essentially, when we smile, our bodies relax. And when our muscles are relaxed, so is our brain.
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Smiling makes us seem relaxed, confident and sincere, and smiling also triggers a part of the brain that processors sensory rewards. This means that when we smile at someone, or they smile at us, we feel rewarded. A study done in Sweden suggests that smiling is infectious (the good kind, thankfully) – when someone smiles at us we can’t help but smile back.
All of which makes sense. Smiling is a sign of pleasure, sociability, happiness, amusement and joy – how can we not join in when we see it?
Such things can only do wonders for improving our social lives, both at developing a friendly and approachable demeanour, as well as strengthening existing relationships with our loved ones. Some studies have even shown that people who smile regularly are more likely to succeed in their careers and leave their co-workers with a good impression.
Smiling is what makes us seem approachable and attractive to others, an inviting universal sign of happiness that eases tension and makes people feel more comfortable around us. Of course, in some cultures smiling at strangers is thought of as being unusual, and there does exist a gender discrepancy in how we perceive women and smiling that means many of us prefer not to have to rely on it. But smiling does have favourable benefits for ourselves and for others.
Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot
What is World Smile Day?
In 1963, Harvey Ball created the smiley face, one of the most recognised symbols of happiness there is across the world. With the over-commercialization of his work losing it’s original sentiment, Ball decided that the first Friday of every October would be World Smile Day. A day where everyone, regardless of politics, geography or religion, can devote themselves to spreading joy and kindness. Find out more about World Smile Day, the Harvey Ball Foundation and how to get involved here.
At Selfish Darling, we’re all for spreading love and community, so a day dedicated to smiling and good will? Certainly a day worth marking in the calendar. So, this World Smile Day, Darlings, spread the happiness and let everyone see those brilliant smiles.