Hang in there, winter is coming to a close and spring is on its way! Many people are affected by the cold and grey of winter, and suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or depression and may need the help of antidepressants. Yes you can improve your mood and health with diet and exercise, but there is something very simple that can also help make a big difference to your well-being at this time of year: smiling.
How Does Smiling Make a Difference?
Here’s how it works. When we smile, the muscles in our face send a positive message to our brain, very similar to what happens when we exercise. Our brain in turn tells our body that we are happy, making it more natural to keep smiling. Physiologically and emotionally, the act of smiling can make a difference by actually decreasing our stress hormones.
Stress is more than an emotion. It causes certain hormones in our body to take precedence and can impact our immune systems, likelihood of illness, mood, sleep health, mental health and emotional well-being. Similarly, smiling is more than a facial expression, and happiness is more than an emotion. It causes a physical reaction beyond our facial muscles and brings positive results in every area of health. There’s even studies that correlate smiling with longer and happier lives.
What to Keep in Mind
It may feel awkward or unnatural at first, but as you do it more, it will become a natural expression for you. It is like training and strengthening any other muscle. It isn’t fake, it’s practicing something that is good for you. Also, practicing smiling more is, in a way, simply relearning what we naturally did as children. Children will smile about 400 daily, and the average adult smiles about 20 times a day.
Now, remember that there is a difference between the social smile (where you only smile with your mouth) and the genuine duchenne smile, which also uses your muscles around your eyes. It is the duchenne smile that you want to practice and give. Smile with your mouth and your eyes; people can tell the difference and so can your body.
Why Men Need to Smile More
Men, especially, can be more intentional about smiling more throughout the day. Research tells us that women smile more than men, and that this is large part due to cultural norms and expectations of gender. Choosing to smile more can help men adopt healthier mindsets of what is considered strong or weak. It means that men can learn to be respectable and strong while giving themselves permission to show positive emotion. Bringing the positive, emotionally-connected physical action of smiling into your daily interactions can allow you to have a happier and more holistic experience in your professional, social and personal life.