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Benefits of Smile and Laughter to Your Overall Health and Well-being

Benefits of Smile and Laughter to Your Overall Health and Well-being

 

Feeling a little down? Smile and you will feel better.

It sounds a little weird, right? You need to feel happy to smile but does it also work the other way around? Turns out it does and there’s solid science to back it up.

Studies indicate that smiling releases feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin from your brain which increases happy feelings [1]. In short, when you smile you make your brain believe that you’re happy—even if you genuinely don’t feel it.

Smile and laughter can do so much more than lift up your mood. They can, in fact, improve your health and there’s a stack of research to prove that. In today’s post, we are going to unravel how smile and laughter can enhance your health and well-being.

Laughter can stimulate your body.

Laughter stimulates your lungs, thus increasing oxygen intake [2]. It also stimulates your heat and your muscles, thus firing up blood circulation. Increased blood flow and oxygen intake can improve the health of your heart and lungs, as well as the whole body.

Smile and laughter can reduce your stress reaction.

Laughter has been shown to control the release of stress chemicals while at the same time regulating happy hormones. For example, one study found that laughter reduces serum cortisol levels [3]. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” and your body releases cortisol when it senses that you’re stressed out [4]. High levels of cortisol can damage your health and lowering its levels can calm the stress response, thereby helping you de-stress.

Another study discovered that smiling during a particularly stressful task can lower heart rate and stress, even when the smile is forced [5].

 

Cat humor
 
Engaging in humorous activities can boost your immunity.

Research has found that being in good humor can increase your immune functioning through various mechanisms [6]. Several researchers have found that watching humorous content can increase antibodies and the activity of natural killer cells [6]. Antibodies and natural killer cells are important components of your immune system that help your body fight diseases.

Laughter can improve your heart health.

One research study reported that the occurrence of heart disease is lower among people who laugh a lot daily than among those who don’t laugh as much [7]. The scientists speculate that this can be due to the lower levels of stress or improved immune response brought about by laughter.  Laughter has also been found to enhance the function of blood vessels and heart health-related hormones [7].

Laughter can increase pain tolerance.

Laughter can also increase your ability to endure physical pain, studies reveal [8]. Your central nervous system produces a type of neurotransmitter called endorphins when you laugh and these endorphins play a vital role in pain management [8].

Smiling and laughter can dampen depression and anxiety.

As we explained at the beginning of this post, smiling tricks your brain into thinking that you’re happy even when you are not feeling cheerful. When the muscles in your face mimic smiling, your brain releases happiness-triggering chemicals like dopamine and serotonin [1].

It also reduces the levels of stress-related hormones like cortisol, thus reducing your stress levels [3]. Scientists have suggested that humor can be used as a therapy for effectively controlling anxiety and depression in patients suffering from these conditions [9].

In a particularly interesting trial, the researchers found that BotoxÒ  injections can decrease the symptoms of depression [10]. While the exact mechanism is still unknown, one hypothesis is the ‘facial feedback hypothesis” which says the inability to physically frown due to BotoxÒ injections lessens the experience of negative emotions [11].


Family

 

Smiling can help you live longer.

By looking at the list of health benefits smiling and laughter brings, we can easily predict that being in good humor can expand the lifespan but don’t take just our word for it.  One study analyzed the intensity of the smiles in photographs and concluded that smile intensity can be used to predict longevity [12]. Those who smiled sincerely in the photographs were found to live longer than those who only smiled partially or didn’t smile at all.

Wrapping up

Apart from the scientifically proven benefits, smiling can help you create better relationships with people around you, thus elevating your mental health. It’s true that we are instantly drawn towards people who are smiling and smiling people appear more attractive.

As we mentioned earlier, smiling even when you least feel like it can light up your heart and uplift your mood. So, laugh like your life depends on it—who knows, it might ;).

 

References:

[1]         “Faking It ‘Till You Make It: Why We Should All Smile More — Grey Matters at Vassar College.” https://www.greymattersjournalvc.org/articles/issue2/fakingittillyoumakeit

[2]         “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke - Mayo Clinic.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

[3]         “Neuroendocrine and Stress Hormone Changes During Mirthful Laughter - ScienceDirect.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002962915361929

[4]         “Cortisol: What It Is, Function, Symptoms & Levels.” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22187-cortisol

[5]         “Grin and bear it: the influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response - PubMed.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23012270/

[6]         “Humor and Laughter May Influence Health IV. Humor and Immune Function.” https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2009/143853/

[7]         “Laughter is the Best Medicine? A Cross-Sectional Study of Cardiovascular Disease Among Older Japanese Adults - PMC.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5037252/

[8]         “Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold - PMC.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267132/

[9]         “The impact of humor therapy on people suffering from depression or anxiety: An integrative literature review - Sun - Brain and Behavior - Wiley Online Library.” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/brb3.3108

[10]       “Treatment of Depression with Botulinum Toxin - PMC.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9231293/

[11]       “Botulinum toxin and the facial feedback hypothesis: Can looking better make you feel happier? - ScienceDirect.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962207022931

[12]       “Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity - Ernest L. Abel, Michael L. Kruger, 2010.” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797610363775

 

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