Connie Stevens once said that “Nothing you wear is more important than your smile”. A lot of people would agree with that statement. And health care professionals would agree with it even more! Everyone knows that a smile says a lot about you. But did you know that a smile says a lot about your health as well? From serving as an indicator of oral diseases (or a lack thereof) to potentially predicting how long will you will live, there is a lot you can learn from that grin of yours.
Need more convincing? Then put on your happy face, and read on.
1. Matters of the Mouth
At the most basic level, a smile reveals the state of your oral health. Yellowing of teeth and signs of tooth decay become almost instantly evident when you smile. Your grin also opens the state of your gums up to scrutiny. And given that there are a number of studies that reveal the link between oral health and other crucial health conditions (including those involving the heart and the brain), your smile ultimately provides a holistic view of your well-being.
2. Smile to a Long Life…
Do you believe that happier people live longer? Well, there just might be some truth. A recent university study has revealed a possible link between smile intensity and longevity. Photographs of baseball players from the 1952 baseball register were examined and categorized on the basis of smile intensity – no smile, moderate smile and Duchenne smile (an intense smile of genuine happiness). The results revealed a positive correlation between longevity and smile intensity, as the smiling players tended to have lived longer lives than their unsmiling more serious counterparts. So the next time someone asks you why you’re smiling so much, you have the perfect answer for them!
3…and a Healthier One
A UC Berkeley study examined the photographs of a number of female alumni from their college yearbooks. Upon following up with these women, three decades after the photos were taken, the researchers discovered that the women who’d had Duchenne smiles in their photos tended to have lived healthier lives, and more satisfying ones too! The researchers theorized that positive emotional expression was indicative of personal well-being and higher levels of life satisfaction. Basically, just keep smiling and nodding away to a long and happy life!
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4. The Power of a Smile
People who smile a lot just might have a superior cognitive function, according to yet another study. Using facial electromyography (a method of measuring muscle contractions in the face) to scientifically distinguish between genuine and non-genuine smiles, researchers found that those with genuine smiles (i.e. Duchenne smiles) demonstrated greater attentional breadth and flexibility while working on tasks – indicating a link between positive emotions and greater cognition. Being smarter, or at any rate more capable at certain tasks, than others is certainly one reason for you to be grinning!
5. Fake It Till You Make It (Or Not)
You now know that smiling means you’ll live a longer and happier life, and it also likely means that you’re more mentally capable. So why not just make an effort to smile more? Maybe putting a smile on that face will put you in a better mood, and by extension, boost your health.
Researchers are a little divided on that subject. There have been studies which have demonstrated that forcing yourself to smile elevates your mood, and may also give a boost to your productivity. Conversely, other studies have shown that ‘faking’ a smile, far from making you happier, is actually likely to put you in a worse mood. A better approach would be to think about something that makes you genuinely happy, and let the smile (and its attendant benefits) follow naturally!
A smile is the universal sign of happiness. And as you’ve now learned, a smile is also a great indicator of health – physical, mental and emotional. It is fitting that health and happiness are both so aptly represented by the same thing; for being healthy is what makes us truly happy, and being happy is what helps us be healthy! So give yourself a reason to smile today, and don’t ever stop…