10 Big Benefits of Smiling

Choose to smile every day to boost mood and health

Many see smiling simply as an involuntary response to things that bring you joy or inspire laughter. While this is certainly true, it overlooks an important point: Smiling can be a conscious, intentional choice.

What does psychology have to say about smiling? Whether your smile is genuine or not, it can act on your body and mind in a variety of positive ways, offering benefits for your health, your mood, and even the moods of people around you.

What Can Smiling Mean?

Research suggests that there are three primary types of smiles:

  • Reward: Smiles that convey approval, happiness, contentment, and other positive feelings.
  • Affiliation: Smiles that communicate positive intention, trustworthiness, belongingness, compassion, and social connection.
  • Dominance: Smiles intended to convey contempt, disgust, or superiority. Such smiles have been shown to increase cortisol (stress hormone) levels in people they are directed toward.

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Smiling Helps You Live Longer

Enthusiastic senior woman with arms outstretched in sunny field

Paul Bradbury / Caiaimage / Getty Images

Perhaps the most compelling reason to smile is that it may lengthen your overall lifespan. One study found that genuine, intense smiling is associated with longer life.

Happy people seem to enjoy better health and longevity, but more research is needed to understand why. Research indicates that happiness could increase lifespan by years—suggesting maintaining a happy, positive mood may be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.


Smiling Relieves Stress

Stress can permeate our entire being, including showing up in your face and expression. Smiling not only helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed, but it can actually help decrease stress.

Believe it or not, smiling can reduce stress even if you don't feel like smiling or even if you fake it with a smile that isn't genuine.

When you are stressed, try intentionally putting a smile on your face. It may help improve your mood and ability to manage the stress you are experiencing.


Smiling Elevates Mood

Smiling can also help make you feel happy. Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There's a good chance your mood will change for the better.

The physical act of smiling activates pathways in your brain that influence your emotional state—meaning that by adopting a happy facial expression, you can "trick" your mind into entering a state of happiness. This affect works whether or not your smile is genuine.

A simple smile can trigger the release of neuropeptides that improve your neural communication. It also causes the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which can boost your mood. Think of smiling as a natural antidepressant.


Smiling Is Contagious

How many times have you heard that a smile has the power to light up the room? While it is certainly a beautiful sentiment, it carries a hint of truth.

Smiling not only can elevate your mood, but it can also change the moods of others for the better.

Research suggests that smiles are actually contagious. Your brain automatically notices and interprets other people's facial expressions—and sometimes, you may even mimic them. That means you might spot someone else's smile and unconsciously smile yourself.


Smiling Boosts the Immune System

Smiling can also boost your overall health by helping your immune system to function more effectively. It is thought that when you smile, immune function improves because you are more relaxed (thanks to the release of certain neurotransmitters).

Whether you're trying to maintain your overall health or strengthen your immune system ahead of cold and flu season, smiling may help. Warding off illness and staying healthier can also play a role in helping you feel less stressed.


Smiling May Lower Blood Pressure

Smiling could have a beneficial impact on your blood pressure. Laughter specifically seems to lower blood pressure, after causing an initial increase in heart rate and breathing.

While smiling has been shown to lower your heart rate in the face of stress, more research is needed to determine how it reduces blood pressure.

If you have a blood pressure monitor at home, you can try testing this idea for yourself. Sit for a few minutes and take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?


Smiling Reduces Pain

Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, other natural painkillers, and serotonin. Together, these brain chemicals make us feel good from head to toe. Not only do they elevate your mood, but they also relax your body and reduce physical pain. Smiling is a natural drug.


Smiling Makes You Attractive

We are naturally drawn to people who smile. While more severe or negative facial expressions like frowns, scowls, and grimaces work in the opposite manner, effectively pushing people away, smiling is seen as more attractive—and people may even assume you have more positive personality traits if you're smiling.

Not only can smiling make you more attractive, but it can also make you look more youthful. The muscles we use to smile also lift the face, making a person appear younger. So instead of opting for a facelift, just try smiling your way through the day—you'll look younger and feel better.


Smiling Suggests Success

Research has shown that people who smile regularly appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and are more likely to be approached. Try putting on a smile at meetings and business appointments. You might find that people react to you differently.


Smiling Helps You Stay Positive

Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It's hard, isn't it?

Smiling can influence your feelings of positivity, even if it feels unnatural or forced. Regardless of whether or not your smile is genuine, it still sends the message that "Life is good!" to your brain and, ultimately, the rest of your body.

11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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