Science – How to feel like a lottery winner

Want to feel like a lottery winner? Smile!

What would you think if I told you that there was something that you could do right now that is absolutely proven to make you happier, healthier, make others think better of you and basically give you the same boost as having someone hand over £16,000 in cash? The absolutely astonishing thing is that there really is something that can deliver all of that – and it’s as simple and easy as a smile.

I have to say that watching Ted talks is one of my favourite and most inspiring ways to spend a quick twenty minutes as I always come away boosted by having been entertained by the world’s leading thinkers sharing fabulous lectures on fascinating subjects.

This one on the power of the simple smile totally captured my attention as you might think that a smile is such as small thing, but presenter Ron Gutman pulls together a wealth of research that shows just how powerful it can be!

Here are some fascinating highlights from the talk..

Want a better life and to be a better example to others? Smile. A 30 year longitudinal study of high school year books revealed a link between someone’s success and wellbeing throughout their life, including how fulfilling and long lasting their marriage would be and how inspiring they would be to others, just from the width of the smiles measured from their school photographs!

Can a humble smile really help you live longer? It looks like it. A 2010 Wayne State university research project that looked into pre-1950’s baseball cards showing pictures of major league players which showed a link between the span of the players smile and how long they lived, with broader smiles correlating with longer lives.

We start smiling before we’re even born. Scans show that babies smile in the womb, whilst studies show that babies continue to smile, even in their sleep and even babies without sight smile at the sound of a human voice.

Going travelling to somewhere exotic and want to connect with people even though you don’t speak the language? You’ve guessed it – smile. People really do smile everywhere. Studies on facial expressions done in Papua New Guinea by professor Paul Ekman showed that members of tribes in some of the most remote parts of the world smiled to express joy and satisfaction.

Smiling at someone can actually change their mood too. Another study revealed that it’s really hard to frown at someone who is smiling because we have to mimic someone else’s smile in order to work out whether it is real or fake. Subjects were asked to hold a pencil lengthways in their mouth, which meant that they couldn’t smile and then were shown pictures of people smiling and asked to say whether they thought that they were real or fake. When they couldn’t actually mimic the facial expressions that they saw, people found it really hard to judge whether the smile was genuine or not. So if someone isn’t smiling, and especially if they are looking down, smile at them and they’ll have to smile back to work out whether you mean it or not!

It was actually scientist Charles Darwin who gave us an early version of the idea of faking it til you make it, when he published his idea that emotions that you simulated very quickly feel real in the mid 1870s.

Smiling brings loads of health benefits. It makes you produce more feel good chemicals. You’d have to eat 2,000 bars of chocolate or even more astonishingly be given £16,000 to get the same boost that just one smile gives you! Smiling can also reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, boost mood enhancing hormones such as endorphins and reduce your blood pressure.

Other studies show that smiling makes others think that you are more competent, polite and likeable!

So surely all of that would really give us something to smile about. Well, again research shows that more than one third of us smile more than twenty times a day, whereas less than 14 per cent of us smile less than five. In contrast, children smile around 400 times per day!

So what can you do to get all of these incredible benefits? Just smile!

Loads of love,

Can you spot the fake smile?  Click through to take a test and find out how good you are…


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