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Happy Healthy YOU

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Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU

(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)

We all know the cue when someone says “cheese” and we intentionally lift the corners of our mouths for a big toothy grin. But did you know that this is actually healthy for us and we should be doing it much more?

We spend countless dollars and hours trying to improve and maintain our health with gym memberships, dentist and doctor appointments, supplements and more. In fact we spend trillions of dollars each year.

So it’s refreshing to know there is one holistic health routine we can do for free. Smile more!

Research has discovered that smiling has healthy benefits for the body and the mind and not just for us, but for those around us too. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to boost your health, your mood, your longevity, and even your success is to smile.

Smiles don’t even have to be genuine to have some effect, but truest smiles do you the most good. Most people can spot a fake smile, even if they can’t say how they know. Fake smiles usually use fewer muscles than genuine smiles, which involve muscles around the eyes. Real smiles also seem to creep in slower than the false ones.

So, if you have to fake a smile or someone says “say cheese!” try to make it as real as possible by thinking of happy memories or visualize your favorite people and places. It makes a difference in what others see and in how you feel. But let’s face it, anything “faked” doesn’t feel as good as the real deal, so seek out the feeling behind a smile.

“Smile as big as you can, then proceed with your day.” - Jake Ducey, author of the Purpose Principles.

Here are my Top 9 reasons why you should smile more:

1. Fight off flu season. Smiling boosts the immune system and assists to increase white blood cell count, which assist to fight off bugs. One study found that hospitalized children who were visited by storytellers and puppeteers who made them smile and laugh had higher white blood cell counts than those children who weren’t visited.

2. Focus and attention. Stress can limit our focus and perceptions and narrows our attention, decreasing our ability to multi-task. Smiling counteracts this and widens our attention again, opening us back up

insights that come from the fringes of our perception and our subconscious.

3. Less stress. Smiling releases endorphin chemicals that help us feel happier and that calm the body. Some studies have shown that smiling after a stressful situation lowers your heart rate quicker than

those that kept a neutral facial expression. Also Cortisol (the stress hormone) is more active when we feel anxious and contributes to the unpleasant feelings we experience, and by lowering it we can

reduce these negative effects. So don’t worry... just smile.

4. More success. A group of researchers from The University of Montpellier, France discovered that smiling is a more effective leadership technique than having great management responsibilities. Participants in a University of Pittsburgh study rated people who smiled as more trustworthy than people with non-smiling facial expressions. Perceived trustworthiness and leadership leads to more success.

5. Mood boost. Not only is there chemical reactions in the body to reduce and lighten the load of stress but the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant and a mood booster, leaving you feeling happier.

6. Decrease discomfort. The endorphins released with smiling and laughing also act as a natural pain reliever. And it’s 100 per cent organically home grown, free of charge and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic remedies.

7. Smiling leads to laughter. Laughing expands the lungs, stretches the muscles in the body, replenishing the cells from a lungful of oxygen and stimulates homeostasis. A good laugh assists us to release tension and can remedy a challenging situation, even if just for the moment. The perspective is a little lighter and happier on the tail end of a hearty laugh that leaves a lingering smile.

8. Ripple Effect. University of Tübingen, Germany discovered that because of complex brain activity that occurs when you see someone smiling, smiles are contagious. The study reported that just seeing one person smiling activates the area of your brain that controls your facial movement, which leads to a grin. Smiling is contagious and the more people that benefit from the above reasons to smile, the ripple effect of it is advantageous for us all.

Seek the smile by going to see a funny movie, a comedy show or spend regular amounts of time with people that make you laugh. Get out in nature and set the intention to smile at everything that pleases you in some way such as the color of the sky, a hyperactive squirrel or the hues of the fall trees.

Surround yourself with optimistic, happy people and activities and decrease the amount of negativity that you allow in your life. Smiling increases physical health and amplifies joy and happiness, so seek the smile!

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." - Thich Nhat Hanh

(If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, please email kelly@indigolounge.ca)

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