I refused to smile for my high school senior portrait. I thought it would make me look “cool” to deny my natural inclination to smile. And for a 17-year-old, it’s all about looking cool. News flash: a stern demeanor doesn’t make you look cool [professional] [smart] [serious]. It makes you look stern.
The Power of a Smile
A smile is a powerful communication tool. It’s a universally appreciated expression that can break down barriers and create connection. You can perform your own experiment; smile at others and note how many people smile back. There’s something contagious about smiling. Seeing people smile stimulates our mirror neurons to suppress our facial muscle control – this triggers a smile.
“Just put on a happy face and you’ll feel better” sounds like annoyingly trite advice. But there’s scientific validation that smiling can make you feel better. Even a fake smile, created by sticking a pencil between your teeth can trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals that act as the body’s natural painkillers, or opiates. No wonder people like watching silly videos on Facebook. Smiling measurably reduces stress!
Not surprisingly, some smiles are more beneficial than others. With the advent of the smart phone, we have trained an entire generation to flash their camera smile. But there’s a difference when you see the genuine smile – the kind that reaches the eyes and conveys joy. That’s called the Duchenne smile, named after Guillame Duchenne, the 19th century French physician who conducted pioneering research in neurology.
More than 30% of us smile more than 20 times a day and less than 14% of us smile less than 5 times a day. Ultrasound technology has revealed that smiling begins in the womb. Children smile with the greatest frequency – there are many who smile as many as 400 times per day. Smiling might contribute to the development of facial wrinkles, but it sounds like they can keep you young in the most important way – the way you feel.
The health benefits of smiling are significant. Research has shown smiling can positively affect:
- Blood pressure
- Immune system function
- Ability to manage stress
In 2009, a team of economists from Warwick Business School established a link between the happiness of workers and their productivity. They concluded, “Since happiness in the workplace brings increased returns to productivity, then human resource departments, business managers and the architects of promotion policies will want to consider the implications.”
People want to work in a positive environment. Smiles can make your organization a happier place to work. Clients, vendors, and everyone who walks into your building will benefit from an atmosphere where people are smiling and happy.
Want to have more effective phone conversations? Smile. A new study, conducted at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. says that a smile is something you can hear. There’s a physiological reason you should be smiling when you answer the telephone. When you smile, the soft palate at the back of your mouth raises and makes the sound waves more fluid. Trained singers understand that the wider you open your mouth, the better tone you get. Smiling is a natural way of improving your voice inflection on the phone; it helps your voice sound friendly, warm, and receptive.
The fastest way to have a better day is right under your nose. Smile.