Smiling: It does the body good!

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smiling 300x281 Smiling: It does the body good!Well, at long last, here in Denver summer is finally upon us (I hope!). There’s something about summertime that just makes people smile more. Ever notice in storybooks the sunshine is always smiling? With the sun comes a renewed sense of happiness and we’re lucky in the Mile High City that we are graced with so many days of sun. In many parts of the country summertime is the only season with long hours of sunshine and that’s certainly worth smiling about! However, I’ll assert that there are ALWAYS reasons to smile; no matter the season, the weather, your mood, or your life dynamics.

Years ago I read a psychological study that took a sample of folks diagnosed with depression and divided them into several groups. I can’t remember all the specifics of the study, but it went something like this: The study participants were divided into three groups with one group getting some sort of mental health treatment, one group received no treatment at all, and one group was told to smile one hundred times per day. Who felt better the fastest?  The ones who smiled. 

According to the scientists, there is some thought that facial feedback can actually create emotion. This is referred to as the “facial feedback hypothesis” which posits that voluntary and involuntary facial movements can help direct one’s emotional experience. Facial expression affects emotional expression, and behavior, and smiling a lot increases one’s internal sense of well being.

From a less scientific, more relational standpoint, smiling connects us to others.  Have you ever been having a bad day, and someone genuinely smiles at you, and suddenly you feel better? Unfortunately, this feedback loop works both ways, so you can start out having a great day and one frowner can bring down your own mood. This is why it is important to hang out with people who emphasize the positive as much as possible.  Keep in mind too that you can help create a better mood for someone else by having an encounter where you are warm and friendly, make eye contact and smile. You can make someone’s day!
I don’t know for sure what makes this smiling phenomenon work, but what I do know is that life feels better when I’m smiling more, and I would guess it feels better for you too.  So give it a try and make the time and effort to smile throughout your day, and see if it makes a difference in how you feel.

Have fun smiling in the sun and thanks for reading!
~Dr. Carrie

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