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Smile! The Remarkable Personal Benefits of Smiling

There may be more to the song "Put on a Happy Face" than just a catchy tune-putting on a happy face is actually good for you, and those around you. Now there's a reason to smile.

Smile Your Way to a Better Future

Need a Quick Laugh?

The new employee stood before the paper shredder looking confused.

"Need some help?" a secretary walking by asked.

"Yes," he replied, "How does this thing work?"

"Simple," she said, taking the fat report from his hand and feeding it into the shredder.

"Thanks," he said, "but where do the copies come out?"

Researchers of a study led by Dr. Dacher Keltner of the University of California were able to predict the future success (30 years down the road!) of 21-year-old women just by looking at their photographs. The key appeared to be the intensity of the women's smiles.

"Women who displayed more positive emotion were more likely to be married by 27, less likely to have remained single into middle adulthood and more likely to have satisfying marriages 30 years later. This means we can take photos at a wedding and from them we may be able to tell how the marriage will go," said Dr. Keltner.

How intense a woman smiled was related to personality tests and psychologists ranked the women by how they expressed emotions like joy and happiness. How did they know the smiles weren't being faked? They used computer technology to measure 44 aspects of facial activity. If a smile were not genuine, certain muscles would not move (for instance, certain muscles around the eyes that we don't consciously control move when we feel emotion).

Be Happy: Fight Illness Better

People who are optimistic (and these are the people who are out there smiling!) have stronger immune systems and are actually able to fight off illness better than pessimists.

"The research is very clear," says Christopher Peterson, Ph.D, a University of Michigan professor who's been studying optimism's link to health for over two decades, "This is not some social science generalization. There is a link between optimistic attitudes and good health. It has been measured in a variety of ways. Overall, we have found that optimistic people are healthier. Their biological makeup is different. They have a more robust immune system."

A Joke to Get You Smiling

Little Johnny's kindergarten class was on a field trip to their local police station where they saw pictures, tacked to a bulletin board, of the 10 most-wanted criminals. One of the youngsters pointed to a picture and asked if it really was the photo of a wanted person. "Yes," said the policeman. "The detectives want very badly to capture him." Little Johnny asked, "Why didn't you keep him when you took his picture?"

It also appears that people who are optimistic are more likely to take care of themselves, which may be another reason why they tend to be healthier. Says Peterson, "Optimistic people act differently ... [and] are more likely to do the things that public health experts say are associated with good health. Generally speaking, they eat sensibly, they don't drink senselessly, they exercise and they get their sleep."

Smile: You'll Live Longer

According to a study published in the November 2004 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, elderly optimistic people, those who expected good things to happen (rather than bad things), were less likely to die than pessimists.

In fact, among the 65- to 85-year-old study participants, those who were most optimistic were 55 percent less likely to die from all causes than the most pessimistic people. What's more, after researchers adjusted the results for age, smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity and other measures of health, the optimists were 71 percent less likely to die than the pessimists!

Smiling Feels Like Eating 2,000 Chocolate Bars

That's right-according to The British Dental Health Foundation, a smile gives the same level of stimulation as eating 2,000 chocolate bars. The results were found after researchers measured brain and heart activity in volunteers as they were shown pictures of smiling people and given money and chocolate.

Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Foundation, pointed out, "We have long been drawing attention to the fact that smiling increases happiness both in yourself and those around you, so it is good to receive the backing of this scientific research ... A healthy smile can improve your confidence, help you make friends and help you to succeed in your career ... "

A Little More Smile Motivation ...

A driver tucked this note under the windshield wiper of his automobile: "I've circled the block for 20 minutes. I'm late for an appointment, and if I don't park here I'll lose my job. Forgive us our trespasses."

When he came back he found a parking ticket and this note: "I've circled the block for 20 years, and if I don't give you a ticket, I'll lose my job. Lead us not into temptation."

Smiling is Contagious

What's even better is that the more you smile, the more others will too. Says psychologist Dr. David Lewis, "Seeing a smile creates what is termed as a 'halo' effect, helping us to remember other happy events more vividly, feel more optimistic, more positive and more motivated."

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead ... Smile!

Recommended Reading

A Brief & Colorful History of the Piggybank: How to Save Money & Spread Good Luck!

The Top Seven Scents That Can Enhance Your Love Life


British Dental Health Foundation April 3, 2005

The Detroit News March 16, 2005

UK Net Guide

Swedish Medical Center

Lots of Jokes

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