Smile your way to good health

 
By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: December 23rd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Whoever said laughter is the best medicine might have been closer to the mark than they realized. New studies have shown that the simple act of smiling may have a variety of health benefits, from lowering blood pressure to relieving stress.

Think about it. Surely there’s been a time when you were upset or anxious and somebody unexpectedly made you giggle. Chances are you relaxed, your shoulders unclenched, your mood improved and you forgot… at least momentarily… what was making you so angry.

Doctors say there are actual physiological benefits that occur when this happens. Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins and serotonin, two chemicals produced by the body that make us feel happier and more relaxed. Even if the smile is fake, the movement of the muscles tugging at the sides of your mouth triggers this reaction.

This happier, more peaceful sensation can help ease hypertension. Some studies have even suggested that smiling might help boost the immune system by helping the body to relax.

Smiling also makes you more attractive to other people, which boosts social interaction… a known stress reliever.

Of course, it’s not always easy to remember to smile, especially during economically troubled times. Try petting an animal, spending a few moments playing with a child or asking a friend to tell you a funny story. Just take some time each day to flash those pearly whites… remember, it’s good for your health!