Over the last two weeks I’ve witnessed, and been a part of, a group of the first 100 people in our office who have experienced our cryosauna. We’ve discussed this revolutionary new piece of equipment in our office during past newsletters and explained the profound effect it can have on improving your metabolism, burning calories, heal sore joints and calm down inflammation. During this short period of time I have seen patients have less pain, improved mood and better athletic performance. Personally, this past weekend I rode my bike up Mount Lemmon in Tuscon and have found the cryosauna to significantly improve my recovery time. Bottom line, the therapeutic effects are impressive.
Yet, the one single thing I’ve noticed from each and every patient who has experienced the cryosauna is the wide smile he/she has following treatment. Folks are feeling genuinely happier after three short minutes, to the point they’re leaving the office with wider grins than when they entered. The effect is quite obvious and it got me wondering about the beneficial effect smiling has on our health. Sure enough, I came across hundreds of studies demonstrating the positive effect smiling has.
Let’s start with a small example. I’m willing to bet you can’t look at this picture of my new 11-week-old daughter, Julia, and not smile. Universally people are happier at the sight of babies, but the effect isn’t one way. You might have noticed that babies smile quite a bit themselves. In fact there have been multiple 3-D ultrasound studies that show smiling babies while still in the womb. Their smiling, however, continues almost involuntarily during the first few months of life while they are sleeping. Even more profound is the study of blind babies who smile upon hearing their mother’s voice. It seems like a simple act, but smiling has powerful effects that can be appreciated even at the very start of life.
It’s smiling’s long-term effects that are even more surprising. Two studies found smiling to improve overall success in life and even lifespan. The first study, done at the University of California Berkley in the 1950s, was a 30-year longitudinal examination of a group of students’ photos in the school’s yearbook. By studying the “amount” of smiling in one yearbook picture and after following students for 30 years, researchers were able to predict with amazing accuracy how fulfilling and long-lasting their marriage would be and how inspiring they would be towards others–a strong leadership trait. The other study, done in 2010, looked at pre-1950 baseball cards and found that those with the widest smile “span” also had the longest lifespan (72 years vs. 80 years).
The trouble, unfortunately, is that only about 1/3 of people smile more than 20 times a day, meaning the vast majority of people smile much less, except for one group of people. Younger people, that is. Children can smile up to 400 times a day! This exaggerated amount of smiling, you might not be surprised to know, reduces stress-inducing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, can increase endorphins and reduce blood pressure. In fact, a 2008 British study showed that one smile can generate the same amount of brain stimulation as eating 2,000 bars of chocolate.
Saying smiling is good for you is a little like saying exercise, good food and clean water will improve your health. It seems obvious. But numerous studies suggest that faking a smile actually does more harm than good. The positive thoughts behind that smile are just as important as the act of smiling itself.
So don’t be surprised the next time you come in the office and see us all smiling–we’ve known for years that smiling is good for you and we love to spread that happiness. I hope this article helped you think about your happiness but most importantly, I hope it helped you smile.
“I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.” Mother Teresa