Are you looking for ways to find and have more emotional nourishment? You’ve probably heard the saying, “a smile can light up a room”. The simple act of smiling and laughter can change your physiology. Even if you don’t feel happy, the mere act of smiling or having a chuckle will initiate changes which can uplift your energy.
Smiling has a positive effect on our happiness and physical health. It releases pleasure hormones called endorphins, natural painkillers and serotonin, which is a natural antidepressant. Physically it boosts our immune system, reduces our stress, lowers our blood pressure, helping the heart to recover more quickly after stressful events. Socially it makes people want to be with us because we look and feel more attractive and open. Smiling has also been shown to help people get over loss and bereavement faster as it facilitates the recovery process and protects the heart.
While smiling is wonderful antidote, even better if you can laugh at the same time. A good laugh relieves tension and stress in your body, and the subsequent relaxation in your muscles can last up to forty-five minutes. The science also shows that laughter boosts the immune system and keeps you feeling well.
Research by neuroscientist, Dr. Robert Provine found, laughter is not primarily about humour but about social relationships.
Laughter establishes – or restores – a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between people who take pleasure in the company of each other.
The Dalai Lama acknowledges, “smiling can be more valuable than meditating.” His practice when he sees someone is to smile. While he does it as an act of kindness to help lift people’s spirits, he admits that it makes him feel happy too. It is what he calls ‘wise selfish behaviour’. He also engages in the practice of laughter. He has a reputation for sharing a joke with his audiences, chuckling out loud and wanting everyone to laugh along with him. I’ve seen him live on stage, and his laughter and lightness are contagious.
Want to enhance your mood? Try walking down the street and smiling. Find yourself in a bad grumpy mood, force a smile on your face and notice the shifts. Instantly your body will release chemicals that will make you feel good. By activating your smile muscles, your heart rate will start to drop and you will feel more composed.
Play with experiencing the difference between a genuine smile and a forced smile. Notice how you feel. A genuine smile is called the “Duchenne Smile” because it involves the movement of the muscle that opens and closes the eyes. This smile uses both the eyes and the mouth. A “fake smile” only uses the mouth area. Either way, they both evoke positive emotions, but the genuine smile is a more powerful connector with others. That is why it is called the “Smile of Merriment” as it produces the most positive effects in others. Let your eyes sparkle when you smile and watch how others react.
I smile at people wherever I go, and let my eyes sparkle. I look for the humour in situations and chuckle to myself as I move through the day. Young children make me laugh because they are so cute and funny. Any opportunity to play and have fun with
If you are keen to discover more about the amazing health benefits of smiling here are a couple of references….
Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act by Robert Gutman, explores how smiles convey an enormous amount of emotions, and how grins carry different meanings across cultures.
If you are wanting to know more about the important role smiles play in human interactions, Smile, by Marianne LaFrance of Yale University, offers a fascinating research and insights about why smiling is so powerful. She says, “There are few compliments more flattering than being told that one has a great smile.”
Let us always meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the beginning of love.
Saint Mother Teressa, Missionary