Oh my goodness! This is great news! And, it is backed up by scientific research! We’ve all heard the old adages such as “grin and bear it” or “keep smiling though your heart is breaking.” I’m not saying that it is good to bury your emotions, but consider choosing to smile through the ups and downs of life. You’ll feel better not only today but also in the long run because smiling enhances your Healthspan!
We all know that stress is bad for the heart but what does a smile do for the cardiovascular system? With 170 participants, researchers evaluated whether covertly manipulating positive facial expressions would influence heart rate. Obviously, there is a clear difference between a fake smile that activates only the muscles in the cheeks and a genuine smile that activates the muscles around the eyes too, producing laugh lines. That’s when you see a twinkle in someone’s eyes! The subjects were divided into three groups and told to:
Hold chopsticks in their mouths in such a way that they mimicked an authentic smile, activating cheek and eye muscles and producing laugh lines
Force a smile
Keep their faces neutral
Then they all had to complete stressful tasks. One of the stressful tasks involved holding their hands in ice water for one minute. Cold activates the same areas in the brain as pain - OUCH! Throughout all of this, researchers measured heart rate and blood pressure. It is normal and even healthy for your heart rate to go up quickly during a stressful event. Returning to normal quickly is what matters. We are designed for bursts of stress; it’s the chronic stress that does the most damage.
The study results are a pleasant surprise! People in Group 1 who really smiled recovered the fastest followed by those in Group 2 with fake smiles. Smiling sends a positive message to the brain that allows the body to respond favorably. All smiling participants, regardless of whether they were aware that they were smiling, had lower heart rates and better stress recovery than did the neutral group. With cardiovascular disease as the #1 cause of a shorter Lifespan (mortality) and a shorter Healthspan (morbidity), it is amazing to think that something as simple as smiling can have such a beneficial outcome during a stressful experience.
Countless studies have confirmed similar health benefits.Smiling:
Makes you look younger and more attractive
Boosts your immune system
Gives you an air of confidence and success
Releases natural pain killers (endorphins) and serotonin (the “happy hormone”)
Enhances the mood of other people around you
If you need to get a set of chopsticks, it is worth the effort! START SOMEWHERE today to smile more often. You can do it. I will help you!
Debbie Ozment, DDS, MS
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