The Hidden Power of a Smile

by Rukiya Charles

Have you ever thought of why the Mona Lisa became one of the most famous paintings of all time? This is a question many people have asked themselves. One possible answer could be that it was because of her smile!

A 30-year research project, launched in California, tried to measure the success and well-being of students throughout their life. What they found was very interesting. By measuring each student’s smile in their high school yearbook, researchers were able to predict how fulfilling and long-lasting relationships like marriage would be, how well they would score on their end-of-year testing, how inspiring they would be to others, and how useful their lives would be.

These gelotologists—gelotology is the study of laughter and its effect on the body—found these results astonishing. So, in 2010, at Winstate University, another research project was launched that looked into pre-1950’s baseball cards of major players. They found that the span of the player’s smile could actually predict the span of his life. Players who didn’t smile in their pictures lived an average of 72 years, whereas players with a beaming white smile lived an average of 82 years. Could frequent smiling add 10 more years to your life?

Using ultrasound technology we can now see that developing babies smile even in the womb. When they are born, babies continue to smile. Initially, babies smile in response to their parents’ smiles, and even blind babies smile in response to their mother’s voice. The average child smiles about 400 times a day, whereas, the average adult (over the age of 30) smiles less than 20 times a day. One-third of the US population smiles less than 5 times a day! How many times do you smile daily?

So what actually happens when we smile? Let’s say you experienced a positive situation, like seeing a friend you haven’t met in a long time. Neurological signals travel from the cortex of the brain to the brainstem, and from there, the cranial muscles carry the signal further towards the smiling muscles of your face. Sounds simple right? But yet, that’s only where it starts. Once the smiling muscles in your face contract, there is a positive feedback loop that now goes back to the brain and reinforces our feeling of joy. Scientists now believe that the act of smiling may actually make our bodies feel better, instead of smiling being a result of feeling good.

Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanism in a way that chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match. British researchers found that one smile generates the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate. That same study found that smiling is as stimulating as receiving up to $25,000 in cash! However, unlike chocolate, lots of smiling can actually make you healthier.

Laughter can help to reduce the amount of stress-enhancing hormones—like cortisol and adrenaline. It also increases the level of mood-enhancing hormones—like endorphins— produced in the body. Smiling makes our brains function better, improves memory, relaxes the body, and lowers blood pressure. It also strengthens our immune system by increasing the amount of killer T cells that combat disease.

A smile is a language that can be understood in every country, culture, and race!

In Proverbs 17:22 it says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Once again, God’s word is proven true! A kind, cheerful, encouraging disposition will prove more effective than the most powerful medicines. Remember today to smile!

Source: From the September 2015,
Uchee Pines Newsletter, "Emphasis: Your Health". You may subscribe to the Uchee Pines Newsletter here.