The second week of August every year is National Smile Week. Smiling has so many benefits to our health and well being that we should all be smiling every single day, there is no need for us to wait for a specific week in the year to smile. Smiling has many benefits, and it can be a simple addition to your daily routine or yoga practice. Here are six reasons to smile more:

#1 Boosts happiness


Research has shown that a full, genuine smile, which includes your mouth and eyes, can improve your mood. One of the pioneers in this field of research is Dr. Robert Zajonc who first published the results of some of his work back in 1989. Smiling releases serotonin, a chemical that’s responsible for balancing your mood. Try it out, on or off the mat, morning afternoon and evening!

#2 Reduces stress


If you’re feeling stressed, try and scare away your problems with a big smile. It’s a research-proven technique! In a study conducted at the University of Kansas, 169 participants were asked to hold their mouths in a neutral expression, a standard smile, or a genuine smile. While using chopsticks to hold the three different expressions, they completed stressful tasks. The results? Standard and genuine smilers recouped from the stressful activities with lower heart rates and more relaxed positive attitudes than participants with neutral expressions.

#3 Increases attractiveness


Others will actually perceive you as more attractive, reliable and relaxed. Research studies at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland have shown that a smiling face activates the orbitofrontal cortex, or the reward center in your brain. When someone smiles at you, you feel rewarded. It’s science!

#4 Lowers your heart rate and blood pressure


If there’s anything we need in this high-speed, always-on-the-go world, then it’s a way to naturally lower our blood pressure and heart rates without medication. According to numerous studies, Smiling does exactly that, by releasing the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. This relaxes your body, then lowers your heart rate and your blood pressure. Try smiling while you’re on the mat to increase the relaxing abilities of yoga.

#5 Decreases pain


While we’re at it, endorphins released by smiling also organically relieve pain. These are the same chemicals that cause a “runner’s high,” an exercise-related euphoria.

#6 Spreads happiness


Smiling not only boosts your own happiness, but the happiness of others! Smiles are truly contagious. When someone smiles at you, an unconscious automatic response in the cingulate cortex of your brain reacts in turn and you imitate the smile. Studies have shown that when participants are asked to frown at a picture of a smiling person, they immediately imitate the smile and then struggle to turn it upside down.

Moral of the story: Spread happiness, in your own life and in others. Begin with connecting to your inner smile on the mat, and then take this National Smile Week out into the world. You might make someone’s day, while improving your own!

[Photo by Ben Smith, Davina – CC BY]
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