Happiness not only makes life more pleasant, but can lead to better health, well-being, and longevity.1 To make the most of life and get started, give the smiling skills outlined below a try for one week. Consider it a one-week smiling experiment. If you commit to following this guide on how to smile more, you will already be on the right track to living a happier, healthier life.
Steps to happiness
1. What You’ll Do: For the entire week, you’ll focus on smiling more. You’ll develop a way to remind yourself to smile throughout your day and even force a smile onto your face periodically. Why? Research shows that if you smile, your mood actually improves.2
2. How It Works: Researchers think that by forcing a smile, you activate a specific set of muscles in the face.3 That set of muscles is closely connected to the emotions of happiness and joy. By smiling, you are signaling the emotional centers of your brain to tell them that everything is good. So even if it’s not, it will be soon.
3. Get Motivated: Smiling more is a simple way to greatly improve the quality of your life. All you have to do is smile, and you will be a happier person. Really. It’s that simple.
Ways to smile more this week
Smiling is the natural response to something funny, happy, or enjoyable so it stands to reason that you probably do not need help with the automatic smile response. Where there is room for improvement is in those mundane, everyday situations when you otherwise might not be automatically smiling.
To learn smiling more, you must first practice:
1. Practice Smiling
Smile. Do it right now as you read this. Put a big, warm smile on your face. Not a fake, strange smile, but a real one, like you are seeing an old friend after several years. Now, think of something unhappy, but keep smiling.
It is difficult to hold an unhappy or negative thought in your mind while keeping a smile on your face. Smiling can help increase happiness and decrease negativity.
2. Give Yourself a Smile Cue
Now that you have practiced smiling and understand a little bit about how smiling can improve your mood, the trick is remembering to smile as you go through your day. You will probably need a reminder to do that often. Choose something that you hear, see, or do often during the day to be your “smile cue.”
You might choose a sound as your reminder, like a phone ringing or an email notification beep. You might choose an action, such as getting in or out of your car, to remind you to smile. You might choose a visual reminder, like seeing someone drinking coffee or seeing someone laughing. Challenge yourself to do this simple act every time you encounter your cues for this entire week.
3. Stay Motivated
Smiling while talking makes a much better impression because you seem more confident and friendly 4. You can even “hear” a smile over the phone. If you are smiling while taking a call, the tone of your voice will lighten and you’ll be able to make a better connection through the phone.
Here’s Your Commitment: This week I will smile every time I am reminded by my “smile cue(s).”
6 Tips for Smiling More
While steps one through three above provide everything you will need to challenge yourself to smile more, here are some other tips to help you:
- Don’t look strange. Make your smiles natural, warm, and sincere. You are simply trying to maintain an elevated mood. Even just a small, almost unnoticeable smile can alter your mood.
- Smile every time you think of it, not only when you encounter your cue for smiling.
- Think of something you really like when you smile — it will lead to sincere smiling. Think of your favourite vacation spot, driving a brand new car, or a good friend.
- Take a deep breath while you are smiling. This will help lessen any stress you have and give you a moment to enjoy your smiling exercise. A deep breath or two increases the relaxation and mood-enhancing the power of smiling.
- Place notes and reminders of this skill throughout your world to remind you to smile more. Put a note on the phone, send yourself an email message, or make a note on your calendar. Make sure that you have plenty of reminders to do this exercise more often. Eventually, it will become a habit (and one of your most healthy ones).
Try Laughing, Too
Taking smiling to the next level means laughing. Figure out a way that you can laugh more this week. You don’t simply want to be amused — you want to be laughing out loud.
Laughing out loud, much like smiling, creates an emotional state that relieves stress and lifts your mood.5 Search for things to laugh about every day this week. Read jokes, watch movies, and talk to funny people. Think of the funniest stories you know and tell one each day this week.
Lawrence EM, Rogers RG, Wadsworth T. Happiness and longevity in the United States. Soc Sci Med. 2015;145:115–119. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.09.020 Wenner M. Smile! It could make you happier. SA Mind. 2009;20(5):14-15. doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0909-14 Chang J, Zhang M, Hitchman G, Qiu J, Liu Y. When you smile, you become happy: evidence from resting-state task-based fMRI. Biol Psychol. 2014;103:100–106. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.08.003 Wang Z, Mao H, Li YJ, Liu F. Smile big or not? Effects of smile intensity on perceptions of warmth and competence. J Consum Res. 2017;43(5):787-805. doi:10.1093/jcr/ucw062 Louie D, Brook K, Frates E. The laughter prescription: A tool for lifestyle medicine. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016;10(4):262–267. doi:10.1177/1559827614550279
Written By Mark Stibich, PhD Originally Appeared On Verywell Mind Republished with permission.