When you’re feeling down, people will sometimes say “just smile”, and “laugh it off”, but does that have any merit? Can smiling really make you feel better? Smiling does a lot more than simply tell the world that you’re happy, it really can boost your health! Here are the main benefits to flashing those pearly whites:

1. Smiling Through the Pain

Smiling and laughter have both been shown to lessen pain by releasing endorphins – which actually lift our moods! Not only that, these endorphins counteract and diminish stress hormones and many of them act as natural painkillers too. The more genuine the smile, the better for releasing these endorphins.

Smiling may also help to reduce symptoms associated with anxiety. When that smile signals to your brain that you’re feeling happy (even though you’re not really feeling happy…yet), your body will usually slow down your breathing and heart rate. Reducing stress is so important for health, too, as it can lower blood pressure, improve digestion and regulate blood sugar.

2. For the Love of Your Heart

In addition to providing evidence that genuine smiles are more effective for reducing stress than fake smiles, a study from the University of Kansas also suggests that “smiling during a taxing task—not just after—can help the body and mind recover more quickly.” After the heart rates of subjects spiked during the stressful tasks, the hearts of the smilers quickly dropped back down to more relaxed rates than those of the non-smilers. The genuine smilers showed the lowest heart rates of all.

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What’s more, another study of nearly 2,000 people published in the European Heart Journal revealed that those with a more positive outlook were less likely to develop heart disease than their more pessimistic peers.

3. The Power of Positivity

According to a Cambridge University study, having a positive attitude can go a long way. Researchers asked subjects to estimate the weight of boxes before they lifted them. Subjects who felt “powerless” were more likely to estimate the boxes as being much heavier than they really were. Those who had a more positive attitude estimated that the boxes weighed less. Not only does this help in your workout, but it can also help you take on everyday tasks – just smile and feel empowered!

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Research also shows that smiling is contagious. Ever been around someone who just  emanates positivity? Studies show that something as simple as seeing a friend smile can activate the muscles in your face to make that same expression, without you even being aware that you are doing it.

4. Landing the Job, or the Date

In a study published in the December 2009 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people looked at full-body photographs of people they had never met. The people in the photos had one of two expressions: neutral or a smile. When observers saw the photos of smiling people, they were more likely to think that the person in the photo was likeable, confident, conscientious and stable – all qualities that employers want to see in their future employees!

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A more pragmatic benefit is that restaurant workers who serve customers with a smile are observed to receive larger tips and repeat business. Even if you work in an office, smiling can affect the way one person is received by another over the phone!

2011 findings by researchers at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland showed that smiling actually makes you more attractive to others. Subjects were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness. They found that both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not.

5. Smiling Leads to Laughing

A myriad of studies have been done on the health benefits of laughing, including how it acts like a mini workout that burns calories and works the abs. Laughter also helps blood flow, lowers blood sugar levels, reduces stress and improves sleep. It may also raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body, which helps boost your immune system.

With so many benefits, it’s hard to think of reasons not to smile! So go ahead and grin Ottawa, it’s good for your health!