Originally appeared in Planet Jackson Hole

Question: What is the simplest, cost-free, in your control and proven way to upgrade your mood, improve your health and uplift others?

Answer: Smiling.

We all know that when we are happy, it is natural to smile spontaneously and often. Scientists have demonstrated that the reverse is also true. When we are not happy and choose to smile … even forcing a smile, even a tiny upturn at the corners of your mouth, even faking it till you make it … will dissolve stress and add happiness. It is very hard to entertain negative thoughts and feelings while smiling. This is not to suggest ignoring unhappy or uncomfortable feelings. It is however a proven way to “change the channel” and feel better immediately.


Smiling activates the release of feel good biochemistry, including endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help to relax the body, lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, relieve pain, release stress and elevate your mood. Smiling also turns on the immune system. According to Sondra Barrett, author of Secrets of Your Cells, smiling can release tension on a cellular level as well, She explains that a habit of smiling reduces the rigidness of our cells, and this physical relaxation can help combat the risk of stress-induced cell mutations that can lead to disease. The blend of all these benefits offers a hefty dose of feeling good on so many levels.


Research has shown that smilers tend to be more productive at work and make more money.

Flashing a smile makes us appear more attractive to others. Participants in the studies, consistently rate the faces of smiling people as better looking.

For those who’d enjoy looking younger, smiling is a mini-facelift, and others see you as younger.

The habitual act of smiling helps the brain move to a more positive space and remain there longer. People also treat people who are smiling differently. Others view you as safe, reliable, sincere, competent and approachable.


When we see a smiling face it is obviously pleasing and welcoming. Studies have investigated this further. Seeing an attractive smiling face activates the part of the brain which processes sensory rewards, the orbitofrontal cortex. We literally feel rewarded in the presence of a smiling person. Maybe this explains why most people enjoy interacting with and/or simply observing babies and little kids. As we interact with them, we are giving and receiving smiles. In fact, research shows that children smile an average of 400 times per day, compared to the average happy adult who smiles 40-50 times per day and the typical adult who smiles only 20 times per day.

In addition, we tend to unconsciously mimic the expressions of others. Our brains have what are called mirror neurons, which fire when we witness an experience, even if we are not experiencing it. Therefore, when you are smiling at someone, the chances are high they can’t help but return the smile. It would take a conscious effort on their part to intercept the brain’s signals to smile back.


The next time you look in the mirror, smile at your own image. Your grin will override any negative self-talk, and you’ll enjoy a measurable uplift. You can pass on the good vibes throughout your day.


It has been said that if enough people in this world were smiling, laughing and happy for one full day, that would dispel all the negativity from the Earth. If you are inspired, this would be a worthy social media experiment.


Did you know? World Smile Day is celebrated the first Friday of October. The holiday was created by Harvey Ball who developed the iconic yellow smiley image. His intention was to improve the world one smile at a time. In that spirit, and in light of all the benefits of smiling, here are some final words of wisdom. “Smile, not because life always gives you reasons to smile, but because your smile is itself a reason for others to smile.”- unknown