As we travel through our days, facing any number of stressors and challenges, we need to tap into health behaviors and practices that can enhance our resilience and improve our wellbeing. A fundamental, free, accessible practice, that we can become aware of and from which we can reap the many benefits, is the simple act of smiling. Smiling is a physical depiction and an outward expression of a range of emotions including, but not limited to, appreciation, gratitude, happiness, love, affection, affirmation, and social connection. The scientific literature tells us that delivering a smile not only helps the smiler, but benefits the recipient, with the potential to enhance health all around.
Feel-good hormones, also considered neurotransmitters carrying messages between the cells, are released when we smile and can enhance mood and decrease stress. Similarly, stress hormones are reduced when we exchange smiles and may even result in lower blood pressure. The positive emotions that are the basis of a smile-exchange, are known to impact job performance, work environment, and productivity. Smiles are also contagious and can positively affect the atmosphere where two or more are gathered—school, home, work, team, church etc. Research has uncovered that children smile an average of 400 times per day, while only 1/3 of adults smile 20 or more times per day and sadly 14% of adults smile less than 5 times per day. Might there be something to approaching the appropriate moments of our life with a child-like enthusiasm that will allow us to experience and exchange the affirming smile?
Taken to another level, we can move right into a chuckle or maybe let loose and have a full-scale belly-laugh. We could consider going a little bit wild and lean into a bounding smile-to-laugh experience that is sure to color the moment and the overall day with some impactful joy. The science around laughter is similar to smiling in reducing stress, increasing feel-good hormones, improving mood and overall health. The good news is smiling is free, laughing is available to us and sharing all of this with the people in our sphere of influence can be considered an act of kindness towards self and others.