No matter where you are right now, stop. Take a deep breath in, and then release it. Now smile.

It may seem basic and unimportant – even silly – but the science today is showing that choosing to smile and incorporating more smiles into your day will not only benefit you, but the people around you. Smiling is like a yawn – it is contagious! The more you smile, the more other people around you will smile.

Not only will your smiling encourage other people around you to smile, but it also shows the people in your life that you are open to communication, that you are open to understanding, and that you are wanting to be connected. Being accepted, wanted, and connected are core human desires that we all crave, and smiling is the number one way to show people that you want to connect on a spiritual human level. Basically, smiling shows that you care, which is a vital aspect to forming long-lasting relationships – both in your personal and professional life.

Smiling is a reflection of happiness that is linked to many life benefits, including more positive and friendly social and business interactions. When you are smiling, even when you are not feeling particularly happy, you are exuding an air of happiness and confidence that people are naturally attracted to. As a business owner, would you want to hire the employee that emulates happiness, success, and confidence, or the employee that can barely get a smile into their interview?

Even though past business climates have convinced many people that happiness is a sign of weakness, this is changing. People want to be happy when they go into work, and when all of your employees – and yourself – are exuding smiles, laughter, and happiness, then the whole environment is happy, even when one person is having a down day. Let’s be honest, we all have rough days, but if you are in a bad mood and walk into a business culture that encourages smiling, it will probably help shift that negative mood and mindset.

The Science of Smiling

There have been endless studies throughout the psychological community that have shown the benefits of smiling – ranging from social health to mental health and well being. Today, we are experiencing a world crisis of severe depression, anxiety, poor mental health, and aggression. People are more stressed out than ever before. This is why psychologists and sociologists have placed so much emphasis on the study of smiling – because such a simple, easy act can completely shift your mental well being and the well being of the people around you.

Social Health

One prominent study from UC Berkeley focused on examining old high school yearbook photos and the smiles of those students. Then, the researchers reached out to these students to measure their well-being and success at various stages of their lives. The predictions that the researchers made about these students based solely on their smiles in high school yearbook photos were astounding – and scarily accurate. Overall, the students that had the widest, authentic smiles ended up having long-lasting and fulfilling marriages, would test higher on wellness and happiness standardized tests, and had more inspiring influence on the people around them. These students, even at the age of 52, all reported having success in their life and marriages, as opposed to the students who did not smile as much in their high school yearbook photos. While this is not the only study of its kind, the overall theme from each of these studies is that smiling often can lead to a happier and more fulfilled sense of well being and happiness throughout one’s life.

Physical Health

Another well-known study on smiling examined baseball card photos from Major League players in 1952 – this was a great way to study the long-term effects of smiling because these professional athletes were so heavily followed and documented throughout their lifetimes, making it easier to obtain photos of the players. The study basically showed that how much a person smiles throughout their lifetime can predict the longevity of a person’s life. All of the players who were smiling in their photos in 1952 lived an average of 79.9 years, whereas the players that weren’t smiling lived an average of 72.9 years! Even if it seems like only a couple of years, the reality is that smiling regularly will increase your physical well being.

Mental Health and Well Being

The science on smiling and the impacts it can have on overall mental health and well being shows that when we smile, it can actually relay that supposed feeling of happiness to our brain, telling it that we feel good, which then leads our brain to tell our face to smile more. It is a cycle that we can choose to be a part of and create on our own, even when we do not necessarily feel happy in that moment. The simple act of smiling can help shift our mindset in tremendous ways. The simple act of smiling has many well-documented positive effects on the human body and psyche – including reduced stress and higher endorphins. These can lead to less anxiety, stress, negative self-talk feelings, depression, and lowered blood pressure. So today, make a point to smile. It may turn your bad mood around – and even brighten another person’s day!