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Sometimes when we’re feeling grouchy or blue, we approach someone with a question. Then, the reply that comes back is, “Say it with a smile.”
The person who says this to you is trying to remind you of what you already know: that smiling has a boomerang effect, whereby your smile not only lifts the spirits of someone else, it also comes back to you to lift your spirits too.
In this essay, we’ll discuss the many benefits of a simple yet sincere smile. If you aren’t smiling right this minute, maybe you’d better keep reading.
How Doing Things With a Smile Affects You
The late (and curmudgeonly) television personality Andy Rooney said that “if you smile when you are alone, then you really mean it.”
What could he have meant by this? We think he was referring to the fact that people who smile when they’re by themselves know that smiling is more than a way you communicate with others.
It can give you lots of benefits that no one else even needs to know about. These include physical and metabolic benefits.
The Physical Benefits of Smiling
Smiling causes the body to release neuropeptides, which fight stress. These are tiny molecules that make it possible for neurons to communicate.
So, the “good” neurotransmitters—dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin—are all activated by the simple act of smiling. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Even more, because of this:
- Smiling lowers blood pressure.
- Smiling relieves stress.
- Smiling relieves physical pain.
- Smiling bolsters the immune system.
- Smiling even makes you look better.
You’re probably feeling better already having read all this! But there’s more…
The Emotional Benefits of Smiling
Not only do you feel better physically when you smile, but your positive emotions kick into high gear too. Smiling improves your mood on the whole and helps build and nurture good relationships.
When you smile, your worries diminish and you are better able to put them into perspective. You feel energized and want to start projects or go out and do things with other people.
What to Do When You’re too Sad to Smile
Smile anyway, and generate some of those great body substances we just discussed. Go someplace where there are other people and smile at them. Your smile could start a conversation.
Remember not to start ruminating. Ruminating is overthinking something—so when you’re already feeling down doing this could make you a little paranoid and cause you to conjure up all sorts of bad things that aren’t real and won’t happen.
If you can’t shake yourself out of the funk you’re in, try this little exercise: hold a smile for a full minute. Feel free to do anything else you’d like while smiling—or else, take a look at your beautiful smile in the mirror.
If you need more than a minute to shake off the blues, that’s OK. Just keep holding the smile!
How Doing Things With a Smile Affects Others
Now, it’s time to seriously consider the fact that smiling is contagious. Do you know someone whose smile changes your whole day? Someone who makes people smile and dispels negative thoughts just by their demeanor?
If you’re around one or more of these people for any time at all, take a moment to look in the mirror. We’ll bet anything you see a happy face (maybe one you haven’t seen for a while) looking back.
Smiling Preemptively Defuses Tension
If you know you’re going to run into someone you’ve recently had a conflict with, you need to be ready with your smile. First of all, that person might have forgotten the conflict altogether. Seeing your bright smile will make them eager to say something positive—and smile back.
Be Careful, Though
The opposite is true as well. Negative facial expressions like frowns, scowls, and grimaces can have the effect of pushing people away. This is because, just as smiling makes you happier, frowning causes you to project some bad vibes.
Even a blank expression has negative connotations. Someone might read this expression as boredom, impatience, or a lack of interest in any type of engagement with them.
If you tend to get this look without realizing it, try taking some selfies and create a smile you like. As someone’s grandmother used to say, “If you keep scowling, your face will freeze that way.”
Using a webcam, try watching your face until you see a sincere and inviting smile appear. Then snap a pic so you can study your “good face.”
By the way, now that you’ve gotten more familiar with your great smile, consider some small enhancements to your teeth. Nothing major. But if, say, you have a chipped tooth, you might talk with your dentist about teeth bonding.
Make Smiling a Habit
It might seem a bit pushy for us to tell you to change your most typical facial expressions. But if they’re not smiles, then yes, we’ll be pushy. Try putting smile reminders on places like your bedroom and bathroom mirrors, the fridge, and the steering wheel of your car.
If you have enough reminders to smile—and follow them—it just might rewire your brain to be “a smiling person.” Think about how this might change your life! Think of the petty conflicts you’ll fend off.
Maybe you’ll notice some aches and pains going away or more people will start entering your life and wanting to spend time with you.
If you still think you need to smile more often, turn this into a project. Go to a movie, make plans with people whose company you enjoy, play with kids or pets. Forcing yourself into situations where you have to do things with a smile works!
Yes! You need to approach life with a smile on your face. Even if you’re an introvert (or even a hermit), that’s no excuse for not smiling—even if it’s just for yourself.
But, then you know what will happen? As you smile to make yourself happy, anyone who sees you will smile back.
Once you’ve made a habit of smiling, there’s no going back. You can keep all your old routines, but you’ll just be doing them more happily. We’d guess those routines will change somewhat, though. Happiness just does that.
Keep watching our blog if you want more things to smile about. There’s always good news out there somewhere!