Research has found that Facebook members who smile in their profile photos have around 15% more close friends than non-smilers. Another analysis of Facebook uncovered that smilers tend to cluster with other smilers.
In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2001, researchers from the University of California published a study on smiling in over 100 women whom they’d tracked for 31 years.
They reported that women who had bigger smiles in their college year book photos experienced fewer psychological and physical health problems, they had better relationships with others, and they scored higher on wellbeing at all ages tested over the three decades of the study.
Is this a chicken or egg scenario? Were these women smiling because they had better lives or did the fact that they smiled more broadly and frequently actually have a bearing on their life experience?
Both. We don’t just smile because we’re happy; we’re happy because we smile. The act of smiling releases serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in our brains that actually lift our mood. It’s difficult to sustain negative thinking while we’re smiling. If you ever find yourself in a pessimistic frame of mind, try smiling and it will short-circuit your thinking. Another effect of smiling on the brain is that it increases our capacity to think globally and to broaden our focus. We are less likely to feel stuck in a rut and more likely to come up with creative and holistic solutions.
Smiling also lowers blood pressure. Next time you go to the doctor, smile for a minute before you have your blood pressure taken. The reading will be lower than if you’d been frowning.
Notwithstanding cultural and social norms, we are biologically programmed to respond positively to someone smiling. We perceive smilers to be more confident, competent and generous. A study in 2001 by Scharlemann et al recorded that if you smile, your trustworthiness rating goes up by 10%! The key to a trustworthy smile is not to rush it. Allow at least half a second for it to spread across your face..
If you find yourself struggling to smile, surround yourself with smilers both on and offline. Emotions spread very efficiently through online networks, so if your circle of contacts is filled with people who smile, you’ll unconsciously find yourself posting a smiling portrait of yourself very soon.