Can Smiling Reduce Stress?
If you have ever wondered, “Can smiling reduce stress?” the answer is yes. Through scientific research studies and health evaluations, smiling has a great effect on reducing stress. Not only that but there are additional results that suggest smiling can have beneficial effects on your overall health. Are you ready to get your smile on?
Stress Can Have a Negative Effect on Your Smile
Why do people frown? Normally, sadness can bring on a frown, or dissatisfaction, or something bad happening to ruin your day. Stress can also bring on a frown and affect your entire body. In a study of 2,412 participants published in 2016, it was found that psychological stress can contribute to oral health problems.
The study included socio-economic factors as well. Those with dental insurance coverage did fare better than those with the additional worry of how to pay the bills. The study also concluded that stress can contribute to other chronic health conditions including:
- Respiratory infections
- Childhood obesity
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type II diabetes
- Tobacco and drug use
Among the oral problems linked directly to stress that can affect your smile are gum inflammation, teeth grinding (Bruxism), and dry mouth.
Stress can be a direct cause of gum inflammation and periodontal disease in some people. Under stress, your body creates excess cortisol (an anti-inflammatory hormone). Cortisone released in the gums creates additional proteins which increase inflammation. This can progress to periodontal disease, pain, and have a negative impact on your smile.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Bruxism can be a response to anger, fear, and stress. This clenching is often done unconsciously and even during periods of sleep. Grinding can create many problems including:
- Broken or damaged teeth
- Jaw popping
- Face pain
As you can see, stress-related teeth grinding can result in many physical problems of the head, neck, and face.
The Science Behind Your Smile
To reclaim the happiness of our youth would be awesome. Children smile on average about 400 times every day. Adults smile much less. A happy adult may smile from 40 to 50 times per day, while a typical adult only manages about 20 smiles.
Smiles can open doors, make you more likable, and even increase your productivity at work! But how does that work? Your body is an amazing machine that works together on every level. One thing begins a chain reaction that keeps moving through your entire body.
In the case of smiling, when you smile your brain releases neuropeptides (little molecules) that fight off stress. Next come other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Serotonin is your body’s natural anti-depressant. Endorphins are natural pain relievers.
The release of the secret weapons in your brain can create a loop that includes the people around you too. When we see a person smile, our natural reaction is to return the smile. We’ve all heard the old adages about “A happy workplace is a productive workplace” and other cliches linked to smiling. Turns out they have a real basis in science! Happy workers are more productive and express more creativity.
Creating a Healthier You With a Smile
There are many different ways to increase your daily smile ratio and all of them will have a lasting impact on your overall health and well-being. Practicing your smile in the mirror each morning can start your day on a happy note. If you don’t like your smile, you can always seek orthodontic treatment to create the smile of your dreams. In the meantime, use the smile you have to brighten your day!
When you smile and laugh regularly you will begin to feel better. Laughter yoga, laugh therapy, and other methods to teach people the benefits of laughter are rekindling this natural healing mechanism. There are many other ways to get your smile back:
- TV programs and funny movies
- Theater and comedy shows at local clubs
- Spending time with family and friends
- Look for things to laugh about throughout the day
Go to the zoo — the monkeys are always hilarious. Take a walk in a park near your home with a playground — the laughter of children is infectious. While we struggle behind our masks during the current pandemic, it may seem that no one is smiling, but that isn’t true. They may be hidden, but people are still smiling and you can too!
Benefits of Smiling and Laughing
We mentioned earlier that smiling can have beneficial health effects. In addition to relieving stress, smiling works miracles on your entire body. Smiling can also make you feel better about yourself. Among the benefits are:
- Reduced pain
- Less stress
- Stronger immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Greater endurance
Give it a try — smile into the mirror and see if your reflection smiles back at you.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It — Does It Work?
What if life is just so overwhelming that you can’t muster a real smile? The good news is that your brain can’t tell the difference between a real smile or a fake smile. When you smile, the movement of the muscles still creates the same release of happy juice from your brain (endorphins).
What that means is that even when you “aren’t feeling it,” you can still use smiling to boost your level of happiness. While laughter and smiling are not a substitute for professional care if you need it, they can create at least a temporary boost.
If you are feeling stressed, try smiling or even laughing to combat it.
Can Smiling Reduce Stress? Try It and See!
If you don’t like your smile, contact Pitner Orthodontics to discuss how Invisalign® can give you the perfect smile you have always dreamed of.
Interested in reading more about smiles? Check out our blog series on The Science Behind Your Smile: