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What the health?: Smiling brings you one step closer to improved health

Credit: J.W. Ramp/Publisher Credit: J.W. Ramp/Publisher

Of all the complicated lessons Carnegie Mellon students learn in the classroom, there is one topic that is least talked about yet even more important than the others. It is bigger than any test, than any job interview across the nation, than any booth or buggy or formal. It lies within you; your health is the one and only decision-making process that stays with you from birth, and your body will benefit or suffer from these decisions.

It is a common belief that in order to be healthy, one must be perfect. However, nobody is perfect, so why bother? Our students should know this is faulty reasoning. Being “healthy” is not being a marathon runner or eating carrots and bran cereal at every meal. Being healthy simply takes just one step. And there is a multitude of tiny, easy actions that you can take anywhere to improve your well-being and add years to your life.

Take something as little as smiling for example. Every time you smile, you are helping your body. It sounds corny, but it’s science. Studentclinc.com cites numerous research studies done on smiling. The studies done on college students proved “smilers” to be perceived as more optimistic, reliable, and better leaders than their counterparts.

Psychologist Robert Zajonc is well-known for his studies on smiling. He finds that smiling cools down the blood in your face and releases serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for our moods, sleep, sexuality, and appetite.

ABC News discusses a research paper done at Carnegie Mellon showing that people are healthy because they are happy and happy because they are healthy; a cyclical system. Take it even further, and laugh. Helpguide.org finds that “laughter activates the chemistry of the will to live and increases our capacity to fight disease.... It reduces problems associated with high blood pressure, strokes, arthritis, and ulcers [and] may also reduce the risk of heart disease.”

It has also been proven that smiling and laughing both stimulate others around you and cause their bodies to naturally mimic yours, making your smile or laugh contagious. So if improving our health is as easy as upturning our lips, why do some people think being healthy is so hard?

Slow down, Carnegie Mellon. Too many students here get so wrapped up in their classes and extracurricular activities that they lose sight of what is most important: themselves. For just one day, look up when you walk to class. Stop text messaging or worrying about exams. The best thing you can do right now is to be conscious of your body and your surroundings.

Go on a walk or kick a soccer ball around with your friends — just feel your body moving. Exercise is a double plus because of the rush of endorphins your brain gets (find out why next week). If you just take time to breathe and take a look at what’s around you, you may end up with a huge smile on your face. Your body will thank you later.