I write a lot about Victoria, and why not? It’s my home and much goes on here worth sharing.

For instance, recently, the city was awarded the distinction of being the 9th friendliest city in the world according to readers of influential travel magazine Conde Nast.  I can see why.

Residents make an effort to engage you, taking an interest in the fact you’re among them, a much different experience than others cities I’ve visited over the years. The smile broadens even deeper when my dog is in the mix , a highly personable Shi-poo named Moxie, a furry companion never too far from my side.

As a semi-recent supplant to the city, the first order of business was to slow down.  Easily recognizable as a newbie due to my brisk gait, it took days of focused practice to slow things down, eventually learning to go with the city’s easy rhythm and flow.

Offering up smiles was the next order of business.  It wasn’t that I didn’t smile, I just didn’t do it enough.

Upon arrival to the city, my reserved Eastern manner got in the way of befriending and engaging the more interesting personalities swirling around town. Don’t get me wrong, I would instantly light up and fall into massive conversation when approached, but it wasn’t natural for me to make the first move.

So guess what? Smiling became a habit I learned to quickly form with beautiful and surprising effects.

Smiling and laughing can have a positive effect on your well-being, but as you make the transition from child to adult, you often tend to lose the habit of indulging in these behaviors. A good example of this is a children’s playground: You often see the kids running around, constantly laughing and smiling as they enjoy living in the moment, while the parents sit around the edge, full of the stresses that modern life can bring, with the occasional grin breaking their otherwise serious facial expressions. Adults can benefit from taking a lead from children and making more room in life for smiling and laughter.

Research has shown that there a number of health benefits contributed to smiling and laughing. In addition to improved health, these simple facial expressions and common human behaviors can have a distinctive positive affect on other factors all areas of your life. When you smile and laugh, a number of physiological changes occur in your body, mostly without you being consciously aware of it happening.  Check the brief list you can benefit from immediately:

1. Improved Mood

Smiling can boost your mood when you’re feeling blue, and may be beneficial for people struggling with anxiety and depression. A 2010 study found that making yourself smile when you’re feeling down helps improve your mood and increases positive thoughts. So, if you’re having a bad day, try smiling anyway, it may lead to a genuine smile and lift your spirits.

2. Lower Blood Pressure

Smiling and laughing more appear to help lower your blood pressure, which is good news for your heart health. A 2009 review explains that laughter causes an initial increase in heart rate, followed by a period of muscle relaxation and a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, which helps reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

3. Stress Relief

Did you know that smiling more often, whether you’re feeling happy or not, helps your body deal with stressful situations more effectively? A 2015 study published in Psychological Science found that smiling can result in a lower heart rate during stressful tasks. Stress generally causes increases in heart rate and blood pressure. So, maintaining a smile when stressed provides you with both psychological and physical health benefits.

4. Better Relationships

Have you noticed that you’re drawn to people who smile a lot? People who smile are perceived as being more likable than people who don’t smile, according to one 2014 study. Being likable makes it easier to build and maintain better relationships with people, which is important for your overall health and well-being. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions have more stable marriages and better interpersonal skills than people with negative emotions. So, keep a smile on your face to help create stronger, healthier social bonds.

5. Stronger Immune Function

Believe it or not, laughter (which often begins with a smile) appears to help boost your body’s immune system. Mayo Clinic reports that laughter and positive thoughts release signaling molecules in your brain that fight stress and illnesses, while negative thoughts decrease your body’s immunity. One 2015 study found that laughter therapy increases immune responses in women who have just had babies. So, maybe laughter really is the best medicine.

6. Pain Relief

Pain relief might be the last thing you’d associate with smiling and laughter, but there are, indeed, links. Mayo Clinic reports that laughter causes your body to release its own natural painkillers. And a 2012 study found that social laughter increases your pain threshold, creating a higher pain tolerance. So, if you’re in pain due to an injury, illness or chronic disease, watch a funny movie, attend a comedy show or hang out with friends and family who make you smile.

7. Longer Life

It turns out that the fountain of youth might be right under your nose. A 2010 study found that smiling and positive emotions are associated with increased life spans. Talk about a reason to smile!

So, if I haven’t given you enough data to put a smile on your face, there may not be much hope for you.  Just kidding! But, I do hope you see its significance, so go ahead and light up, you might be the reason someone’s day just got better.


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