National Smile Month originated in 1977 in the United Kingdom as a weeklong dental health campaign called, appropriately enough, Smile 77. In the U.S., it’s celebrated during the month of June. Along with the fundamental health benefits of brushing and flossing, limiting high-sugar foods and drinks, and getting regular dental care, National Smile Month calls your attention to the overall health benefits of a smile and a good laugh. Show off those pearly whites with a good guffaw, and boost your wellbeing, too.
Laugh till you snort, and you can relieve yourself of tension and stress for nearly an hour. Big laughs begin in response to something you hear, see, or read, but after a while, you’re laughing because you’re laughing, and the mirth doesn’t stop right away.
To trigger these types of lasting giggles, binge-watch some online cat videos or a favorite funny movie. The improvement in your overall wellbeing makes this kind of detour from serious business all the more worthwhile. In fact, you’ll find it easier to concentrate on thinking through important problems after you’ve incorporated some silliness into your day.
Smiling makes you feel happier and less anxious. Along with the smiles that result from joyful feelings and happy moments, the act of rearranging your face in a smile actually tricks your brain into helping you relax, even if the facial expression isn’t a lasting expression of how you feel at the moment.
Want proof? Studies show that people who receive cosmetic injections to relax their foreheads and block their ability to frown score as happier than people whose frowns aren’t blocked by medication. The more you spiral into worries, condemn yourself as a failure, or beat yourself over the head with what you should have done, the worse you make yourself feel—and the more you handicap your ability to cope.
When you laugh, your body releases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, the happiness hormones that make you feel good and even reduce sensations of pain. Smiling also can lower heart rate and blood pressure. In fact, laughter awards you some of the same exercise benefits as a moderate workout. You can feel the effects in your abdomen after you’ve laughed till you get lost in the moment.
Kick up your immune system
Laughter helps cut back on the stress hormone cortisol, and shortens the amount of time your body needs to recover from stress. It also helps boost the body’s natural defenses against infection. No, it’s not a universal cure-all, but it definitely contributes to good health.
Improve your mood
Sadness and depression alter the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Laughter helps crank up the production of these chemicals, which are integral to your mood and mental health. Thanks to studies that show the benefits of laughter, some psychologists actually incorporate it into their approaches to patient therapy.
Anger hangs on you like a heavy weight, and the longer you carry it, the worse it makes you feel. A good dose of humor helps you shrug off the bitter taste of resentment or the lingering effects of a grudge.
The wackier things get, the more you need your sense of humor. It helps you stay grounded and increases your feelings of competence. With a smile and a good chortle, you equip yourself for success in uncertain times.