Smiles for the new year

A new year offers new beginnings. Time to set goals, reflect, resolve. Does the thought of making/keeping new year’s resolutions make you grimace?  If so, it’s time to turn that frown upside down and create a resolution you can easily keep this year. Resolve to Smile more! Why? Smiles are amazing.

Senia & Wayne's – ‘smile-selfies’
Senia & Wayne’s – ‘smile-selfies’

It turns out that there are a whole host of health benefits associated with smiling. In an article titled, “15 of the best and free health benefits of smiling” includes heart health, pain and stress reduction as well as an increase in productivity and longevity.

Smiles are also contagious.

According to Scientific American,  if you smile at someone, they smile, and then you both get a little happier. It has to do with something called ‘mirror neurons’ in our brains. The way this works is, if you see someone smiling, your mirror neurons for smiling fire up as well, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile.

If you are a caregiver, this can be especially good news. Try smiling at your loved one several times throughout your day and watch how they respond.

Another fun ‘smile-adventure’ can happen while getting a bit of exercise as well. For instance, take a smile walk. It can be in your neighborhood, or where ever your favorite place to stroll might be.  On your walk, be determined to make a point of smiling at a half dozen folks. Watch their reactions. As a result, most people will smile back. You may also be pleased by how happy you feel by the end of your walk.

What if you don’t feel like smiling?

Don’t despair! According to, smiles – even fake smiles do a lot more than simply let the world know you’re happy. Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. As a result, the act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.

Smile Studies

An article titled, Smile: A Powerful Tool by Alex Korb Ph.D.,  reveals the power of a smile:

“One of the best experiments to demonstrate the power of a smile came from the late ’80s. The researchers devised an ingenious way to get the subjects to flex certain muscles of their face without knowing why. They had subjects hold a pencil in one of three ways. The first group held the pencil widthwise between their teeth, forcing a smile. The second group held the pencil in their lips lengthwise, which means they couldn’t smile,and were actually making kind of a frown. The control group held the pencil in their hand. Then the subjects looked at some cartoons, and rated how funny they were. The “smile” group gave the cartoons much higher “funny” ratings than the “frown” group, while the control group was somewhere in the middle.”

Other studies found similar results.  They had subjects mimic some of the characteristics of a smile, by making the long “e” sound, which stretches the corners of the mouth outward. Other vowel sounds were also tested, including the long “u,” which forces the mouth into a pouty expression. 

As it happens, happiness is that easy. The takeaway here is that smiles might just be the best resolution you can make and keep all year long…and best of all, they’re free!

Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama.  May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy on your own, unique journey.

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Paperback or Kindle edition
Paperback or Kindle edition



One thought on “Smiles for the new year”

  1. I have recently gone through this very thing with my mother in law and your Finishing well book helped me understand to a large degree what was happening in her life and mine. Thank you so much for your story.

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