New Year, New You! – The science of Smiling!
Updated: Jun 1
“The other driver never saw her!”
Through the morphine haze, I heard this faint conversation. I was in intensive care, having barely survived being hit by a car going 60 mph while I was stopped and waiting to turn left. “Wow, they never saw me?” I thought. And I had the sudden realization of how painful it truly must feel to FEEL invisible. I mean I was in intense pain having been literally invisible – the irony was not lost on me.
After months of recovering, the awareness of the visceral pain of feeling invisible lingered. I was 17 and still in High School – and as we all know – High School is no picnic when you feel different, let alone want to make a difference. Then I realized one thing I could do. Smile!
Little did I know that I had tapped into the Science of Smiling.
Ron Gutman, founder of Health Tap, revealed the research on smiling on a Tedx talk:
Smiling is one of the most basic, biological and uniform expressions for all humans – we are born smiling and smile in the womb – mostly in our sleep at that stage – and often when we were farting. 😊 But research has found that even blind babies smile to the sound of a human voice.
A study linking smiling to longevity analyzed baseball card photos of players – those who weren’t smiling in their photos lived to be an average age of 72.9, those who were smiling, lived to be an average age of 80.
More than 1/3 of us smile more than 20 times a day and less than 14 % of us smile less than 5 – yet – those with the most smiles – the happiest of them all – are kids – who smile as many as 400 times a day.
And – amazing – mimicking a smile allows you to physically experience whether the person smiling at you has a real or fake smile – mimicking allows you to understand the emotional state of the smiler.
The rewards of smiling are even bigger to your health
Smiling stimulates our brain reward mechanics in a way that even chocolate – a well-regarded pleasure inducer – cannot match. British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2000 bars of chocolate!
And unlike a ton of chocolate, smiling can make you healthier – it reduces overall blood pressure and reduces the stress related hormone levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine and then increases the levels of mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins.
But here’s the topper —- smiling makes you look good in the eyes of others. A recent study at Penn State Univ found that when you smile, you don’t only appear to be more likeable and courteous, but you appear to be more competent.
When I finally returned to school – my goal was to acknowledge in some way, every person I passed in the hall or came through my line of sight. I was nervous when I made this commitment to myself – what if no one smiled back, what if I truly got ignored or made fun of? But wasn’t that the point? To make everyone feel valued, seen, and acknowledged? I could handle the rejection – if it worked in some way.
Who knew that it would work in more ways than I imagined – including helping me overcome my own sadness over so much injury, feeling like I’d been gone and left out of so much that happens every day at school, and feeling very different with new injuries and slow healing. To learn how this worked in magical ways, reach out and I’m happy to share – take it from me – smiling can make your life grander than you ever imagined!
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