Laughter and smiling are similar, but not identical, phenomena. They both involve the movement of the mouth. Specifically, the corners of the mouth turn up and it often opens partially or completely. Laughter also engages the vocal chords and breath.
It is said, moreover, that a true laugh or a true smile also involves the eyes. When people are said to smile with their mouth but not their eyes, this is a shorthand way of saying that their smile was not genuine.
However, smiling and laughter are more than just physical movements, they are also associated with emotional affects, too.
Smiling and laughter are linked to feelings of happiness, exhilaration, good humor and so on.
10 Health Benefits of Laughter and Smiling
We tend to think of laughter and smiling as arising from feeling well and happy. But, did you know that laughter and smiling can also cause wellbeing? Below are just 10 of the many health benefits of laughter and smiling.
1. Releasing endorphins: A smile or a laugh releases endorphins. These are the hormones that help us to feel carefree and happy. They are also released by exercise.
2. Decreasing cortisol: Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone. This is because, when it is released in high levels we feel stressed. Laughter and smiles descrease cortisol levels – and thus decrease our stress levels too.
3. Cardiovascular health: Laughter stimulates the blood vessels and the heart, promoting good cardiovascular health.
4. Respiratory health: Laughter encourages us to take deep breaths, which is great for our respiratory health and wellbeing.
5. Positive thoughts: Positive thinking can help us to recover better and more quickly from illnesses, scientific studies have shown. Try smiling or laughing now – your thoughts will instantly become a little more uplifted and positive.
6. Good posture: Taking a deep breath and smiling or laughing can help to correct our posture and thus avoid strain in the spinal or dorsal (back) areas of our body.
7. Perspective: Taking time out from a stressful situation to laugh or smile can give us some new perspective on that situation. We might learn to laugh at our problems, or perhaps just to see that they were not so bad as we thought. Here, the laugh or smile enables us to take a much needed step back.
8. Helping others: Smiles, laughs and yawns are all infections: if we see someone else smile or laugh, we want to do so too. So, smiling and laughing to visibly show our feelings helps to spread positivity around the community and benefit the health and wellbeing of other people around us as well.
9. Clearing the airways: Some people find that laughing hard helps to clear the airways in their nose and throat, reducing congestion and helping them to breath better.
10. Digestive health: A particularly deep laugh is sometimes called a belly laugh, and this can be related to the way in which laughter relaxes and soothes our whole body right down to the belly.
Conclusion: We all have plenty to smile about if we just sit and think about it for a while.