1. Smiling can make you look younger. Even if there were no other benefits to smiling, I’m sure many of us would be grateful just for this one. The UMKC researchers tested the popular theory that smiling might cause others to perceive you as being younger than you actually are. Sure enough, in a small study, college students perceived older people who had happy smiles on their faces as looking younger than their age. The people with frowns on their faces were categorized as looking older.
Here’s my theory about this: A smile provides you with a mini-facelift. Turning up the corners of your mouth raises your entire face, including cheeks, jowls, and neck. Try it now! Instead of spending $15,000 or more on a facelift, just smile.
2. Smiling can make you look thinner. In a recent study by a young psychology student at UMKC, sad faces randomized and flashed on a computer screen were judged to be heftier. This is a surprising conclusion; I can only speculate that a mouth turned down in a frown might give the impression that a person is weighed down by unhappiness. In any event, I sense a bestseller here:
The Smile Diet.
More Research to Grin About
Here are seven more reasons to smile that I gleaned from past research:
3. Smiling elevates your mood and creates a sense of well-being. As behavioral psychologist Sarah Stevenson writes in this post, “Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain.” The notorious party animals dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin start whooping it up when you smile. And a bonus: those endorphins serve as natural pain relievers and act as the body’s own opiates.
“Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain.”
4. Smiling induces more pleasure in the brain more than chocolate. I know you don’t believe this. I don’t believe it either. But according to Ron Gutman, the author of Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act, “British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.” Where do I sign up for the next experiment? And what happened to the person who ate 2,000 bars of chocolate? I’d like to interview him.
5. Even a forced smile can lead to a mood boost. Usually we think that a positive experience is what makes us smile. While this is true, it’s also true that merely deciding to smile can provide a positive experience. As Buddhist author Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” Even research subjects directed to place a pencil between their teeth, forcing their lips into a smile, actually feel better. Odd, but true.