Why Smile? Here Are 7 Research-Backed Benefits Of Smiling More! 

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When we think about what we love most about our loved ones—be it family members, spouses or romantic partners, our children, our friends, etc.—usually their eyes and their smile are the main facial features that we love most, and that truly differentiate any two faces.

Let’s face it, everyone looks so much more beautiful when they smile.

But, besides lighting up our faces and making us look “good,“ what are the benefits of smiling? In other words, are there actual health benefits of smiling or reasons to smile?

In this article, we will look at research-backed reasons to smile that point to various physical and mental health benefits of smiling. So, get in an extra round of brushing and flossing as you prepare to learn about the various health benefits of smiling.

We will look at: 

  • Is Smiling Good for You?
  • Why Do People Smile?
  • 7 Research-Backed Benefits Of Smiling

Let’s get started!

A person smiling.

Is Smiling Good for You?

We often think of smiling as solely an involuntary response that occurs with something that brings us joy or pleasure.

Smiling is indeed an innate human response to joy or happiness, but it is also possible to deliberately smile by intentionally choosing to smile.

Interestingly, conscious smiling seems to elicit many of the same physical and health benefits of smiling that occur naturally in response to actual joy or happiness.

Indeed, psychological research has found that whether you have a genuine smile or an intentional “forced” smile, your body and mind perceive the smile in a similar way.

To this end, smiling has been shown to improve your physical health, strengthen your immune system, boost your mood and sense of well-being, reduce anxiety and tension, and improve the mood and feelings of well-being in others who get to see your smile.

A person smiling.

Why Do People Smile?

Evidence suggests that there are different reasons why people smile or different “messages“ that a smile conveys or triggers that compel a person to smile.

Here are the main types of smiles: 

  • Reward: Reward smiles convey positive feelings like approval, happiness, and contentment.
  • Affiliation: Affiliation smiles are ones that bond us together and have more of a social implication, so they usually communicate positive intentions to another person, such as compassion, trustworthiness, empathy, social connection, and a sense of belonging and acceptance.
  • Dominance: Dominance smiles are different from the other types of smiles because they are actually backed by more of a negative swath of emotions and intentions, such as superiority, contempt, or disgust.

Additionally, unlike the other types of smiles, which have been associated with positive physical and mental health benefits, dominance smiles have been associated with increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that is linked to adverse health effects such as inflammation, fatigue, fat gain, anxiety, moodiness, and difficulty sleeping.

A person smiling.

7 Research-Backed Benefits Of Smiling

Let’s look at some of the research that has demonstrated various mental and physical health benefits of smiling.

#1: Smiling May Increase Longevity

Among the many benefits of smiling, probably the most enticing reason to smile is that smiling may help extend your lifespan.

For example, one study found that genuine smiles are associated with living longer.

It’s not entirely clear why this is the case, but it likely has to do with hormones that are released in the body when we are happy, such as serotonin and dopamine, which can help promote health.

Additionally, intense, genuine smiling generally means that you are in a more positive mood. This likely means that levels of cortisol are lower, and you are less stressed and anxious.

Chronic, elevated cortisol can lead to a host of adverse effects on the body, as can stress, anxiety, and depression.

More research is needed in this area to fully elucidate why smiling may help you live a longer life.

Why Smile? Here Are 7 Research-Backed Benefits Of Smiling More!  1

#2: Smiling Can Improve Your Mood

Researchers found that the physical act of smiling can actually boost your mood by activating pathways in the body that trigger the release of “happy hormones“ such as serotonin and dopamine.

Smiling also releases chemicals called neuropeptides that improve the communication between different neurons in the brain, helping you think more clearly and feel better.

Essentially, even if you are feeling down, you can trick your brain into feeling more upbeat and happy by consciously working your face into a smile.

This can help push away symptoms of depression or low mood.

#3: Smiling Can Help Reduce Stress

Although it may be that a genuine smile is necessary to increase your lifespan, studies have found that even forced or fake smiles can help decrease stress.

Stress has a ripple effect on the body, affecting not only our mood and outlook but also physiological factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, sympathetic nervous system activation, the ability to get quality sleep, hormone and appetite function, and energy levels, among others. 

Therefore, if you are dealing with a bout of acute stress or often feel weighed down by chronic stress, incorporating deliberate smiling into your day may help decrease stress and put you on the right track to feeling better.

A person smiling.

#4: Smiling Makes You Beautiful 

Not only is a smile one of your defining facial features that helps radiate your internal and external beauty but smiling also helps make you more attractive to other people. 

In fact, studies suggest that people perceive someone who is smiling as having more positive personality traits, which will help draw that person to you and develop a more trusting bond.

Consider the difference between the approachability of someone who is scowling or frowning versus someone who has an animated smile. 

Smiling helps connect people and develop friendships and meaningful relationships, whereas scowling, frowning, and grimacing can push people away and leave you feeling socially isolated.

To this end, another good reason to smile is that it makes you look more radiant and youthful, gives a softness to your face and demeanor, and makes your eyes sparkle.

A close-up of a person smiling.

#5: Smiling Helps Make Other People Happy

Have you ever been in the presence of someone whose smile seems to “light up the room“? Or, perhaps when you see someone you love smile, you can’t help but break into a big, beaming smile yourself.

Smiling can be contagious, according to research.

Humans are social creatures, and we have natural responses that bond us to one another. The contagious nature of a happy smile is an example of an unconscious response.

People automatically respond to the facial expressions of others in our presence, and our brain interprets and responds to these facial expressions to help us connect as social creatures.

We even have a tendency to mimic the facial expressions of others in our company.

This means that in addition to elevating your own mood when you smile, you give a “gift” to others around you by offering a free microdose of a natural antidepressant to help boost their mood as well.

A person smiling.

#6: Smiling Imparts a Sense of Confidence

Piggybacking on the idea that smiling makes you more approachable and attractive to others, smiling also conveys a sense of confidence.

For example, research has found that people who smile more often are perceived as being more confident, which can translate to better success in your work life, dating life, and building positive rapport and a reputation of trustworthiness from others.

This nifty reason to smile can come in handy when you’re at a business meeting trying to seek a promotion, at a job interview hoping to land a dream role, or at a bar trying to work up the courage to approach someone you are interested in.

If you look more confident, people will be more attracted to you and will have greater belief in your potential for success.

This, again, creates a positive feedback loop.

If you appear more confident to others and appreciate the fruits of that higher confidence, you will begin to have more self-confidence naturally and will continue to carry yourself with even more poise, confidence, and authority.

A person smiling.

#7: Smiling Can Bring You Joy

Even if you feel down, you can “fake it ‘til you make it” by smiling.

Your brain can be tricked into feeling happier so that the forced smile becomes that much easier—perhaps even a real smile.

Looking for more things to be happy about so that it is easier to have a genuine, natural smile?

Consider trying a new sport or activity. 

There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that exercise can boost your mood and make you feel happier. 

If you’ve never really been keen on exercise, here are some cardio alternatives to running that can get your heart pumping and your mood lifting!

A person smiling.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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