I’ve been thinking a lot about smiling lately. I knew there were some health benefits to laughing, but I hadn’t thought about any health benefits of smiling until my yoga instructor mentioned one time that that smiling actually triggers the rest of the muscles in your body to relax. She often reminds us to smile throughout the practice, but I always thought it was just to get us to consciously think about being happy. I found myself purposefully smiling more after that class and did find that I felt more relaxed right afterwards. It got me wondering about other health benefits to smiling, so I did a little research.
I had heard before that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile, and I was aware of some of the social benefits to smiling such as making yourself more attractive and helping put yourself and others in a good mood. What I didn’t know or may have heard before but had forgotten was that smiling and laughing can boost your immune system, relieve tension and stress by releasing endorphins and lowering levels of cortisol, relieve pain, and lower your heart rate. Laughing is good for the lungs and can increase blood flow as well. Smiling can also increase your productivity, your attention span, and your life span, and it can also make you look younger. Smiling also helps to promote teamwork.
While your friends and family may be able to tell the difference between a fake smile and a real one, your brain cannot, so you can take advantage of these health benefits whenever you wish! You can help others experience these benefits too, since both smiling and laughing are contagious.
With all of that in mind, it’s hard not to also think about how society is rapidly changing in large part due to changes in technology, which may or may not be affecting the amount of time we spend smiling and laughing. And I mean really laughing, not just typing LOL, LMAO, ROFL, etc. On one hand, people keep in touch much more frequently now through means such as texting and social media rather than in person or over the phone. People generally laugh and smile more when talking to someone face to face or over the phone, so people are missing out on that when they are texting or typing emails back and forth. And then there is the increased amount of time people spend playing video games and surfing the internet or doing other things with our phones rather than interact with people around them.
On the other hand, we have an endless supply of YouTube videos to keep us laughing, and being able to do a video chat with someone and smile and laugh together is sometimes better than a regular phone call or most other means of communication.
I definitely agree with E. E. Cummings who said, “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” I know I personally wish I had more reasons to laugh and smile. After reading about all of the benefits, I am even more motivated to laugh and smile more often and to help others around me do so as well. I hope you will join me. As my son just read off a magnet on the refrigerator this evening…
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