Say Cheese: 7 Reasons Science Wants You to Smile

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A little optimism can go a long way. Whether you tend to smile from ear to ear or you opt for a more subdued smirk, the fact is that smiling is really good for your health, your happiness, your relationships, and your life.

You’ve probably heard that if you want to lift your mood, all you need to do is turn your frown upside down. It’s not an old wives’ tale. In fact, scientific proof shows that an optimistic outlook improves your state of mind and has the power to improve your day, your emotional state, and even your future. According to the Harvard Health Publications, “Optimism helps people cope with disease and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.”

Smiling and an optimistic attitude are powerful tools.

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., psychologist, and author argues, “Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, excited. The feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well. This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.”

Wow.

That might sound like a lot of fancy scientific terms that you’ll never fully understand or remember, but here’s the bottom line: Smiling and having a positive attitude are REALLY, REALLY good for you.

Now, let’s say you’re having a rough day and quite frankly, you don’t feel like smiling. Now what? Well, good news — even a fake smile has the power to positively impact your physical and emotional well-being. So as they say, grin and bear it, and rest assured that things are about to look up. Or, fake it until you make it!

Here are 7 reasons why optimism, even if it’s just a quick smile, can change your entire outlook and maybe even save your life:

Smiling is Contagious 

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Do you ever notice that when people around you are happy, you tend to feel better as well? It’s not all in your head; smiling and optimism are actually contagious. That’s because your brain tends to automatically mimic a positive facial expression when it sees it, so when someone smiles at you, you smile back. Smiling then, produces a universal gut reaction. When you smile, the world smiles back

Calms Your Nerves

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What you do with your face, whether you are frowning or smiling, can have very real effects on your level of stress and your response to stressful situations. Neurologist Dr. Isha Gupta told NBCNews that smiling actually is connected to a physiological response, releasing dopamine and serotonin into your system. “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression,” he explained.

Makes You More Attractive

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Who doesn’t want to look their best? What if we said that you don’t need fancy beauty products to improve your appearance? All you need to do is smile. People who smile and look happy are often perceived to be younger than those who frown or have a neutral expression, and smiling can also make you appear more attractive, sexy and more appealing to the opposite sex. Wham!

Smiling Can Make You Live Longer 

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The endorphins released when you smile help act as a natural pain reliever, and they also help you recover faster from injury or illness and keep your blood pressure and heart rate in check. All of those positive effects can not only improve your current life state, but also protect you from future health issues, resulting in a longer (and happier) life

Smiling Creates Opportunities 

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Smiling makes you seem more approachable, because you look happy, welcoming, more reliable and relaxed. When you see someone smiling you want to talk to them and be in their company, as opposed to when you see someone who looks sad, angry or stressed. Smiling, and maintaining a positive attitude will not only make it easier to meet new people, but it will also help strengthen your existing relationships, thereby creating new and exciting opportunities for you in both your personal and professional life

Retrains Your Brain to Seek and Find Happiness

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While smiling comes naturally for some, others have to actively train their brains to function that way. And by smiling more often, you are rewiring your “brain to scan for the good things in life — to help us see more possibility, to feel more energy, and to succeed at higher levels,” according to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. Positive actions and thoughts train your brain to develop more optimistic patterns in the future, leading to happiness and success