By John Wood

No matter what country you’re from or what language you speak, everyone in the world understands what a smile means.

According to Dale Carnegie, famous self-improvement lecturer and author of the best-selling How to Win Friends and Influence People …

“It costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive it, without impoverishing people who give it. It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.”

English essayist and poet Joseph Addison (1672-1719) was also well aware of the power of smiling. He wrote …

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are bug trifles to be sure, but scattered along life’s pathway the good they do is inconceivable.”

Here are eight reasons why you should make smiling part of your daily routine …

  1. You’ll live longer and be in better health.University of Michigan professor, Christopher Peterson, PhD, says, “Overall we found optimistic people are healthier. Their biological makeup is different. They have a more robust immune system.”  Peterson adds that optimistic people generally take better care of themselves – they are more likely to eat sensibly, drink in moderation and exercise regularly.According to a November 2004 study by the Archives of General Psychiatry among people 65 to 85 years of age, optimists were 71 percent less likely to die than pessimists.  When you smile it also boosts the levels of serotonin, which plays a vital part in regulating moods, sleep, sexuality and appetite, and releases endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers.
  2. It’s easier to smile than frown. Someone once said that “It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown.” I’m not sure if numbers are accurate, but you get the point – being miserable requires more work than being happy.
  3. It makes you more attractive. There’s a reason people insist you smile before they take your picture, everyone looks better with a smile on their face.
  4. Smiling makes you look younger. Not only do you look better, you look younger. Forget the face lifts or Botox shots; just smile more often.
  5. Smiling makes you seem more successful. People who smile are assumed to be more successful. If you’re always frowning, people automatically assume things aren’t going that great for you.
  6. People treat you differently. If you’re smiling, people are more likely to start a conversation with you. People want to be around people who smile.
  7. You’ll spend less time in jail. Studies have shown that judges give lighter sentences to people if they’re smiling.
  8. You’ll have a more satisfying relationship. A study by Dr. Dacher Keltner showed that women who showed an intense happiness in their smile were more likely to marry by the age of 27 and maintain a satisfying relationship.

In his classic book, How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling, Frank Bettger told of how when he’d give talks across the country he’d challenge people to greet others with smiles for 30 days. He received thousands of letters talking about the impact this simple gesture had on their lives. He cites the following letter as typical of the letters he received:

“My wife and I had just about agreed to separate. Of course, I thought she was entirely at fault. Within a few days after I began to put this idea into action, happiness was restored in my home. I then came to realize that I had been losing out in business because of a sullen, losing attitude. At the end of the day, I would go home and take it out on my wife and children. It was all my fault, not my wife’s at all. I am a totally different man from what I was a year ago. I’m happier because I’ve made others happy too. Now everybody greets me with a smile. In addition, my business has shown surprising improvement.”

Here are four things you can start right now to put you on track to a happier life:

  1. “Fake it till you make it.”  Dale Carnegie said it about enthusiasm, but it applies to smiling too. Put a smile on your face and even when things aren’t going so good, you can’t help but feel better.
  2. Find the humor in situations.  Who can forget the last scene of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” when Brian, sentenced to death by crucifixion for his part in a kidnapping plot, joins in with the other 140 doomed men and sings “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”?
  3. Smile at least five times a day for no good reason.  Make smiling part of your daily schedule. Add it to your day timer so you don’t forget. Make a point to smile at yourself first thing every morning when you look in the mirror.
  4. Sing a song that makes you smile.  There are certain songs that when you hear them, you can’t help but smile. One of the more famous ones is “Put On a Happy Face” from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.”  But in my opinion, the greatest song about smiling was written by the person many consider to be the greatest film comedian of all time. Everyone knows Charlie Chaplin was a great entertainer, but you may not know that he was also a prolific composer. Eighteen years after his most famous melody appeared on the soundtrack of his 1936 film “Modern Times,” two Englishmen, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, wrote lyrics to it and titled it “Smile.”No matter where you are, if you’re feeling less than stellar, you can’t help but feel better about the state of your world if you sing these words to Chaplin’s melody:Smile tho’ your heart is aching,Smile, even though it’s breaking,
    When there are clouds in the sky – you’ll get by,
    If you smile through your fear and sorrow,
    Smile and maybe tomorrow
    You’ll see the sun come shining through – for you.Light up your face with gladness,
    Hide ev’ry trace of sadness,
    Altho’ a tear may be ever so near,
    That’s the time you must keep on trying,
    Smile – what’s the use of crying,
    You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
    If you just smile.

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This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Golden Thread, a free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on the best wealth careers, lifestyle careers and work-at-home careers available. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/.