Smiling and Laughing for Health and Well-Being

(Did you hear the one about the….?)

Research has shown that there are a number of health benefits contributed to smiling and laughing. In addition to improved health, these simple facial expressions and common human behaviors can have a distinctive positive affect on other factors all areas of your life. When you smile and laugh, a number of physiological and psychological changes occur in your body, mostly without you being consciously aware of it happening.

6 Benefits of Smiling and Laughing

1. Neurotransmitters called endorphins are released when you smile.
These are triggered by the movements of the muscles in your face, which is interpreted by your brain, which in turn releases these chemicals. Endorphins are responsible for making us feel happy, and they also help lower stress levels. They also act as the body’s natural pain killers. For sufferers of chronic pain, laughing and smiling can be very effective in pain management, as can laughing off the pain when you bump an elbow or fall over.

2. While the release of endorphins is increased, the stress hormone cortisol is reduced.
Cortisol is more active when we feel stressed or anxious and contributes to the unpleasant feelings we experience, and by lowering it we can reduce these negative feelings. A first impression is made in less than a second bio-chemically as the brain produces either dopamine or cortisol. Smiling and having eye contact upon fist meeting someone better insures a positive instinctive reaction.

3. Laughing expands the lungs, stretches the muscles in the body and stimulates homeostasis.
This exercises the body. Laughing replenishes the cells from a lungful of oxygen while purging carbon dioxide and gaining all the benefits of exercising the body. In a bout of laughing, the abs contract the equivalent of doing crunches.

4. A good laugh can be an effective way to release emotions.
A good laugh can help you release emotions, especially those emotions that you might bottle up inside. Everything looks a little bit better after a good laugh and life can be seen from a more positive perspective. Smiling and laughing have positive social implications as well.

5. Smiling is an attractive expression, which is more likely to draw people to you rather than push them away.
Smiling makes you appear more approachable. Interaction with others is easier and more enjoyable when smiles and laughs are shared, and these behaviors are contagious, making others feel better too, and make you a more appealing and attractive person to be around. This, of course, has a positive effect on your self esteem, confidence and general well-being.

6. A happy, positive expression will serve you well in life.
This is particularly true for challenging situations such as job interviews and selling situations: a smiling, relaxed persona indicates confidence and an ability to cope well in stressful situations. Building healthy relationships with colleagues, family, friends and being seen in a favourable light by your employers and clients is made so much easier if you are seen with a consistently happy, positive expression.

4 simple ways to bring more smiling and laughing into your day:

  1. Fake a smile if you have to. Your brain does not know the difference between a fake or real smile, and by doing so more often you will feel better, and become more likely to smile and laugh more spontaneously. If you are stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, waking up in the morning…smile. The muscles that form a smile trigger endorphins creating a positive feeling. Faking a smile or laugh works as well as the real thing—the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake as it interprets the positioning of the facial muscles in the same way. This is known as the facial feedback hypothesis. The more you stimulate your brain to release this chemical the more often you feel happier and relaxed. And like most behavior, the more you do it, the easier and more automatic it gets. Wellness can be developed.

  2. Watch funny films, TV, You Tube and theater shows. Negative news is part of the real world and you need to know. But be sure to balance your viewing time with something that makes you laugh.

  3. Spend time with friends and family that make you feel happy. Surrounding yourself with happy, fun-loving, optimistic people will bring out your happy side, and their behavior will rub off on you as you subconsciously mimic their behavioural patterns. Spend minimal to no time with those folks who can suck the air out of a room. Happiness is the most contagious thing in the world, followed by the second most contagious thing–lack of happiness.

  4. Find things to smile and laugh about. Once you change perspective and start consciously looking at all the things that are funny and uplifting, you will be more aware of them, in tune with them, and more ready to engage in a spontaneous smile or laugh. For many who focus on what’s negative to neutral in life, this is an eye opener and a world changer.