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The Power of Smiling

Learn some of the lesser-known facts behind smiling, from psychological health benefits to how it can be perceived by others.

Smiling is something that most of us do every day—often without even realizing it. And though psychology professionals might tell you this behavior is most often a sign of happiness, there’s more to smiling than you might think. Below, we outline a few facts about smiling, from psychological health benefits to how it can be perceived by others.


You feel better when you smile.
Smiling increases mood-enhancing hormones while decreasing stress-enhancing hormones, including cortisol, and adrenaline. It also reduces overall blood pressure. And because you typically smile when you’re happy, the muscles used trigger your brain to produce more endorphins—the chemical that relieves pain and stress.

Smiling can help you live longer.1
According to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing, optimism—which is linked to smiling—is associated with a lower risk of early death from cancer and infection. And according to a study in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, people who experience higher levels of optimism have a longer life span. The research included data from two large population studies that totaled 71,400 individuals and found that both optimistic men and women demonstrated exceptional longevity, i.e., surviving to 85 years old.

Initially, smiling can have different effects on how you’re perceived.
When it comes to attraction, there’s usually no accounting for taste. However, according to a study that examined sexual attractiveness of individuals based on expressions of happiness, pride, and shame, the results were rather definitive. For men, happiness (demonstrated by smiling) was the most attractive female emotion expression; for women, happiness was among the least attractive male emotion expressions. Ultimately, it was determined that distinct expressions of emotion have differing effects on sexual attractiveness that vary by gender (but not by age).2

Not all smiles are expressions of happiness.
Psychologists past and present agree that there are upward of 15 different types of smiles, all conveying different messages. Often referred to as “the chosen vehicle for all ambiguities,” smiling can convey fear, embarrassment, misery, and anger, among other emotions.3 Some smiles are even forced, which can sometimes produce detrimental outcomes for an individual. In fact, one study found that customer service professionals who force a smile to appear happy in front of customers were more prone to heavier drinking after work.4

Smiling isn’t a learned behavior.5
Believe it or not, we are actually born smiling. With the advancement of 3D ultrasound technology, doctors and medical practitioners have been able to identify that developing babies smile in the womb. Once a baby is born, they continue to smile. This is true of all babies regardless of culture and environment, as smiling is a basic and biological uniform human expression.

Pursue a Career in Psychology With a Bachelor’s in Psychology From Walden University

Walden offers a supportive online learning environment that provides a great backdrop for earning your psychology degree. As a student in Walden’s BS in Psychology program, you can gain deeper insights into human behavior as well as the critical thinking skills to assess psychological methods and studies. Choose from six concentrations to center your online education on the career in psychology you want to pursue, including Addictions, Criminal Justice, Human Services, and Workplace Psychology. You may even use your BS in Psychology as a steppingstone to pursue an MS in Psychology or even a PhD in Psychology. Whatever you decide, Walden’s bachelor’s in psychology program can give you the tools you need to enter the field and prepare for a meaningful career.

At Walden, an accredited university, you can earn your psychology degree online while you continue to work full time. That means you can better maintain a work-life balance while you take online psychology courses to advance your skill set. With online education, there’s no need to completely rearrange your schedule or commute to campus—you can take classes at whatever time of day works best for you as you earn your bachelor’s in psychology and prepare to stand out in the field.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a BS in Psychology degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,