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Health Benefits From Smiling

By Harold E. Sconiers

A good smile can brighten up the room. People who frequently smile are perceived to be more in control, at ease and attractive than those who don't ( (Lau, 1982). However, a genuine smile may do more than just improve your appearance. New research has found a strong connection between smiling and your general health and well-being.

Good Feelings

Smiling can lift your spirits. 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."

Affect on Others

People who smile more often have a more positive effect on their environment, and are better received by others ( Abel, MH, Hester, R. (2002). The therapeutic effects of smiling). Feeling "in place" with your surroundings may be essential to physical and emotional well-being. The Canadian Statistics Office reports that "Individuals who felt very strongly connected [in their society] had nearly twice the odds of reporting excellent or very good health, compared with those who reported a weak sense of community belonging." A more pragmatic benefit is that restaraunt workers who serve customers with a smile are observed to receive larger tips (Tidd & Lockard, 1978) and repeat business (Tsai, 2001). Smiling can even affect the way one person is recieved by another over the phone. A study, conducted by Amy Drahota, examined how smiling affects how people speak and are heard. From her research, she ascertained that "When we listen to people speaking, we may be picking up on all sorts of cues, even unconsciously, which help us to interpret the speaker."

Stress Relief

Smiling may help to reduce symptoms associated with 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." Chronic stress does significant damage to to the body and mind. Reducing stress may lower blood pressure, improve digestion, regulate blood sugar and curb neurotic reactions brought on by prolonged anxiety.

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