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Say cheese! Putting on a happy face may help you live longer

June 19, 2017
smile, smiling, health, happiness

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We know that smiling makes us feel good and helps us to connect with other people. But one of the unexpected effects of a smile is that it also helps to counteract bad feelings such as anger, disappointment, and frustration.

Don’t get me wrong — we need our negative emotions! They push us to take action and they get us ready to run or to fight. But getting ready for action causes a cascade of events in both our mind and body.

Think about the last time you just missed hitting another car. Your heart pounds and you feel the fear long after the other car is down the road. And the psychological effects may last even longer. But experiencing happiness, joy, or laughter can quickly undo these negative after-effects.

To prove this, researchers had people watch a sad scene from “Steel Magnolias” while recording their heart activity and videotaping them to see if they smiled during the scene. They found that about half of the people smiled at some point, and for them, their heart rate went down faster, returning to normal nearly as twice as fast as those who had not smiled.

Putting on a happy face helps you not only feel better, but relieves stress on your heart as well.

So if a smile improves our heart health, can it improve our overall health and help us live longer? Research shows that a smile can do just that.

In a study titled “Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity,” Wayne State University researchers used baseball cards to analyze the smiles of 230 Major League Baseball players from the 1952 player register. The study included controls for body mass index, how long their careers were, and their marital status and education.

They sorted the photos into categories — “no smile,” “partial smile” and the so-called Duchenne smile — an authentic expression of joy.

And guess what? The non-smilers lived to be 72.9 years old, on average. The partial smilers lived to 75 years, and the Duchenne smilers lived to 79.9 years.

So you can smile more and live longer — and have more fun while you are at it.

Article courtesy of Dr. Leslie Pitner for The New York Daily News.