Science Backs Smiling

Last Sunday, Australia celebrated their National Smile Day and never was there a better reason to show off our pearly whites. But as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons to get your grin on. From mood lifting to decision-making, science has come through with all the goods to get you beaming and we’ve listed some of the best ones below.

 1.  Improves Your Mood

You don’t need to actually find something pleasing in order to feel uplifted, the simple act of smiling is enough to make you feel happier, even if you’re not necessarily feeling happy on the inside. The science behind smiling is all about the connection between your facial muscles and your brain activity, and it puts the popular "fake it til' you make it" motto in a whole new light. It figures something like this: when you contract your facial muscles into a smile, what you're really doing is triggering a positive feedback loop in your brain, which rewards you with positive feelings. 

2.  Makes You A Better Athlete

According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercisethere's an actual psychological effect that smiling can have on your athletic performance. Researchers at Ulster and Swansea Universities found that runners who smiled for six minutes while pounding the treadmill had a more economical running movement and felt like they had to put less effort into their movement. Which basically means beaming at the gym is going to make you work harder without the extra effort.  

3.  Cuts Stress

Practising our best Cheshire Cat impression doesn’t come naturally when we are feeling stressed, but even just forcing a smile, as 169 students were told to do in a University of Kansas study, is enough to lower heart rate, which is a clear indicator of the body’s stress response.

4.  Improves decision-making

We humans don’t much like making decisions, but it turns out, smiling can be a helpful aid when we’re trying to choose between A and B. In a study published in the journal Cognition And Emotion, older adults were made to smile by being given a bag of sweets and a thank you card when they arrived. They then performed significantly better during a decision-making experiment than those who weren’t greeted with anything at all.

And if that wasn’t reason enough, Forbes reports that a smile can release more rewarding and pleasurable feelings in your body than a bite of chocolate, which is a known stimulant that makes people happy. So next time life is doing its best to get you down, turn that frown upside down, crack a smile and beam from ear to ear.