A new year has started. And what better way to start it than with a big and welcoming smile?

This article is entirely devoted to “smiles”. :-) You will be surprised to read about the many health benefits of a simple smile! So let’s dive right into it:

The Health Factor: The number 1 reason for smiling frequently is that it is healthy!

• Smiling boosts your immune system. When you are in a more relaxed and positive state of mind your immune system will work better too. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
• “The research is very clear,” says Christopher Peterson, PhD, 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.”
• Smiling could be classified as a “feel good” drug. Several studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins. These are brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which make us feel happy. They are also a natural pain and stress reliever.
• Smiling may help to reduce symptoms associated with stress and anxiety. Mark Stibich, PhD, consultant at Columbia University, believes that "If you can slow your breathing down and change your expression, you may be able to turn around the stress cascade."
• Laughing relaxes your whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves stress and physical tension. Your muscles will remain relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
• Laughter even protects your heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
• And last but not least, laughing helps you fight off some of those calories you have been accumulating over the Christmas period. By smiling and staying positive your body may lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that triggers cravings for foods high in fat and sugar. That means you will be less likely to reach for those chocolate bars when you are stressed. A recent research from Vanderbilt University found that 10 to 15 minutes of chuckling burned a total of 50 calories!

The Attractiveness Factor: Let’s face it – A beautiful smile wins people over much easier than someone who doesn’t smile at all.

• We are drawn to happy and smiley people. We are intrigued by their Happiness and want to know what it is that makes them so positive and happy. They make us feel good, don’t they? Their positive energy somehow lifts us up as well and they inspire us.
• Smiling makes us more beautiful. The muscles we use to smile lift the face which makes us all look younger and feel better and more energetic
• Smiling makes you appear more confident and successful which is great if you are career minded. Research showed that smiling positive people are more likely to get promoted.

The Happiness Factor: Smiling has an effect on our overall Happiness.

• Smiling helps us stay positive. When we smile our body gets the message that “Life is good”. We are more likely to stay away from depression, anxiety or stress when we have a positive outlook on life and smile our way through the day.
• Smiling is contageous. People who smile at others almost always get a smile back. When we laugh or smile we share our happiness and joy with those around us and these people are likely to respond to it by also laughing and sharing their smiles and joy. When we smile at a stranger we not only increase our own happiness, but we also send out a positive message that might change someone else’s mood for the better. The stranger who received our smile might pass this kindness to another stranger. I wonder how far our original smile might travel?
• When you smile at a stranger you not only boost your own health and beauty, you also send a positive message that can potentially change someone else's mood for the better. The stranger you graced with your smile may go on to pass the kindness to someone else. Who knows how far your original smile will travel?
• Smiles have the power to change our moods. Have you ever felt lonely or down and then someone smiled at you, you automatically smiled back and suddenly your worries either vanished or didn’t seem as heavy anymore? Just a little smile can help us to get through a hard day as proven by some scientific research:
• A study conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation showed the act of smiling to dramatically improve one's mood. Dr. Nigel Carter, foundation CEO, stated "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."
• 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.

Want to incorporate more smiles and laughter into your own life? Why not sign up for a Laughter Yoga class? :-)

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Author's Bio: 

Lais Stephan is the Founder of Be Happy Now (www.behappy-now.com) where she works as a certified Alternative Therapy Practitioner with holistic methods, such as REIKI, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), Crystal Healing and several Massage Techniques.

Lais also has a passion for photography, writing and blogging.