What’s in a smile?

Man in glasses smiling

In general, having a positive outlook and being happy is good for your health and wellbeing. It can help to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and reduce your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). It can also improve how well your body responds to infection and inflammation. And it doesn’t stop there; if you’re happy and positive, you’re more likely to get a good night’s sleep, which can benefit both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Being happy is one thing, but how we express our happiness is another. Smiling is probably one of the most universal symbols of happiness and has its own benefits.

As it’s National Smile Month, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the benefits a smile can have on both you and those around you.

Bringing people together

It’s thought that smiling brings people together. It allows us to feel connected and share our positive feelings. When someone smiles at you, it’s likely that you’ll naturally smile back. By responding to someone’s smile with a smile of your own, you can share in their sense of pride, achievement or amusement – whatever it was that triggered their smile in the first place.

How you appear to others

When you first meet someone, your brain rapidly analyses their physical appearance and quickly forms a first impression. In this short space of time, you pick up on certain facial features (such as their smile) to help guide your judgement of them. It’s thought that your smile not only influences how attractive you are, but also how trustworthy you appear to other people. It appears that the bigger your smile, the more attractive and trustworthy you will seem to others.

Managing stresses

Smiling can affect the way your body recovers from certain stresses. When you encounter a stressful event, it’s thought that smiling lowers your heart rate and enables you to feel better about the situation, more so than if you weren’t to smile at all. And it gets better; it’s not just a genuine smile that has this effect, forcing a smile has similar effects. The term ‘grin and bear it’ has never rung so true. So next time you encounter a stressful situation, try smiling.

Now that you know the benefits of smiling, here are some of my personal tips to help keep you smiling throughout the day.

  • Always look for the positives – try to focus your attention on the things you find funny or exciting.
  • Surround yourself with people and things that make you happy. Family, friends – whoever it is – make your environment a happy one.
  • Don’t let other people’s actions get you down. It can be hard to get through the day without someone grumbling around you over the length of the supermarket queue, or the slight delay to the bus. If you encounter this, stop, take a minute and move on – be conscious not to let the negative energy of others stick with you.
  • Keep it simple. Young children find so much joy in the simplest of things. Why not draw some inspiration from them? Watch a funny children’s film, blow bubbles or do some colouring in!

Even healthy people become unwell sometimes. Health insurance can help you get prompt access to the treatment and support you need to help you get back on the road to recovery. Learn more with our useful guide to understanding health insurance.

Mental Health Nurse at Bupa UK

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