New study shows smiling extends lifespan

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Good News about Smiling(NaturalHealth365) The science is clear and the news is great. Smiling will extend your lifespan and, best of all, it’s available to everyone – at no cost. Get this message out to your family and friends – you’re more likely to live longer by having a bigger smile and smiling as often as possible.

Throughout the ages, it’s been common knowledge that a happy disposition will improve the quality of your life. Obviously, it’s fair to say, people who smile often are usually happier, have appealing personality traits, more stable relationships, better cognitive/interpersonal social skills and the list goes on and on. Plus, we now know (scientifically) that smiling will help us enjoy life for a longer period of time.

What exactly is the ‘ultimate’ smile?

One measurement that researchers use when assessing emotion is the intensity of someone’s smile. They look at the authenticity of grins by observing a few features which show a spontaneous expression of happiness.

Researchers often class smiles as being of two types: standard smiles, where only the mouth shapes the smile, and a ‘genuine’ (Duchenne) smile – where the muscles around the mouth and the eyes shape the smile.

The Duchenne smile was named after Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne, a 19th century French neurologist who used electrophysiology to show how truly happy smiles also use the muscles around the eyes.

Paul Ekman, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco says a Duchenne smile “generates the physiology of positive emotion and the changes in the brain.”

Compelling research confirms satisfaction in life and longevity based on smiling

Studies found that the intensity of a person’s smile can help predict their life’s satisfaction and lifespan. Researchers at Wayne State University used information from the Baseball Register to look at photos of 230 players who started in professional baseball before 1950. The players’ photos were enlarged and a rating of their smile intensity was made.

They looked at big smiles, no smiles and partial smiles and compared the players lifespan based on those criteria. Can you guess what happened next?

The researchers corrected their analysis to account for other factors tied to longevity. For the players that have passed on, the researchers found longevity raged from an average of 72.9 years – for the players with no smiles (63 players), to 75 years for players with partial smiles (64 players) to 79.9 years for players with big smiles (23 players).

This study along with others published in Psychological Science is in line with a host of other studies – which correlate positive emotions with longevity, mental and physical health.

LeeAnne Harker, Ph.D., and Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley, found that positive emotional expression in college yearbook pictures correlates with the self-reported personality traits of affiliation, competence and low negative emotions across adulthood.

In the longitudinal study of Mills College graduates, Keltner and colleague LeeAnne Harker coded the smiles of 114 women who had their university yearbook photo taken sometime during 1958 and 1960. All, but three, of the young women smiled. However, 50 had Duchenne smiles and 61 had non-Duchenne, ‘courtesy’ smiles.

The genuine smile group were more likely to get and stay married, and had higher score evaluations of physical and emotional well-being. Keltner’s study was able to find this connection more than 30 years after the college photos were taken.

Smiling will help to balance the hormones

Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins and serotonin – which will naturally help to reduce inflammation and pain. In fact, smiling is a powerful immune booster and mood stabilizer.

Here’s an interesting quote from Jane Plant, Ph.D., a professor of environmental geochemistry at Imperial College in London, and one of the world’s leading geochemists:

“Smiling is a way of tricking your brain into thinking that everything’s OK, even if it’s not…

People who are mildly depressed should do their best to show the world a happy face, as that will improve people’s reaction to you and lift your mood.”

Dr. Plant is the author of Beating Stress, Anxiety & Depression. This book reveals the 10 lifestyle factors that affect the likelihood of developing anxiety and depression, and reveal the 10 food factors that can improve mental well-being.

Can you do this? ‘Fake it, until you make it’

There is research behind faking a smile and the actual theory is called “facial feedback.” It says that “involuntary facial movements provide sufficient peripheral information to drive emotional experience.”

In a smile generating study, the researchers taught volunteers how to hold their faces in a neutral expression, hold a standard smile, or hold a Duchenne smile. They also got some of the volunteers to hold their face in a forced smile by holding chopsticks in their mouths.

Then, the percipients were subjected to a series of stress-inducing, multitasking activities, which some struggled to perform while continuing to hold the chopsticks in their mouths. The subjects’ heart rates and reported stress levels were monitored throughout. Can you guess what happened next?

They found the participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those whose faces expressed genuine or Duchenne smiles, had the lowest heart rates after recovery from the stressful activities. Those with forced smiles held only by the chopsticks also had lower heart rates and felt less stressed than those who held a neutral expression.

The question often asked is whether smiling reflects a person’s overall happiness or if the act of smiling contributes to overall happiness. Marianne LaFrance, a psychology professor at Yale University believes its both. It’s like a two way street, its bidirectional. Bottom line, keep smiling – it’s good for you. 🙂

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Jonathan LandsmanAbout the author: Jonathan Landsman is the host of NaturalHealth365.com, the NaturalNews Talk Hour – a free, weekly health show and the NaturalNews Inner Circle – a monthly subscription to the brightest minds in natural health and healing.

Reaching hundreds of thousands of people, worldwide, as a personal health consultant, writer and radio talk show host – Jonathan has been educating the public on the health benefits of an organic (non-GMO) diet along with high-quality supplementation and healthy lifestyle habits including exercise and meditation.

References:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7584633/Smiling-could-help-you-live-longer.html
http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/people-anticipate-others-genuine-smiles-but-not-polite-smiles.html
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/11/30/smile-big-youre-going-to-have-a-good-long-life/
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/story/health/story/2011-12-27/Smile-a-lot-it-just-might-save-your-life/52187612/1

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  • technicallysane

    Great article and one that I myself need to adopt lately. I’ve been rather stressed with the holiday obligations and allowed myself to feel sorry for myself in a negative way. I know instinctively this isn’t a good state to be in so as soon as I finished reading the article I determined that I WILL smile and I will not allow anyone to steal my joy.
    Thanks for the reminder in this article Jonathan.

  • technicallysane

    I have to agree with you on this and I suppose there are some exceptions to every rule. My former mother-in-law has a face etched with a perpetual scowl and did nothing but complain and criticize all those around her for as long as I knew her. She has just celebrated her 102nd birthday and seems to have no signs of dying any time soon. I was happy to part company with her when my husband died….(her son)… but my children keep me abreast of what is going on with her.