Can Smiling Make your glycemic response Healthier?

Can smiling make you healthier? The research over the last decade has had mixed results.  Mostly because there are so many different kinds of smiles! The ones you have when you are nervous, embarrassed, sarcastic, surprised or happy are all a bit different.  But one thing is for sure, your smile goes a long way, especially when it’s genuine. 

Why smiling can be good for you

When you naturally smile, your brain releases small molecules called neuropeptides to help fight off stress. Then other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins come into play too. The endorphins act as a mild pain reliever, whereas serotonin is an antidepressant. One study even suggests that smiling can help us recover faster from stress and reduce our heart rate. 

An article from CNBC discusses research from New York-based neurologist Dr. Isha Gupta which found that the mere act of smiling can increase levels of hormones like dopamine and serotonin in the body. “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and aggression,” Gupta previously told NBC News. 

Laughter stimulates your organs when you breathe in more oxygen, contract your facial and abdomen muscles, and reap the benefits of the neuropeptides no matter what age.  Where do our smiles begin? There are reflexive smiles that babies are born with and smiles in response to the environment such as smells, sounds, and feelings (like gas). In an article by The Conversationalist they discuss how quickly babies begin to communicate through smiles.  

“When researchers started observing infants, most of their initial results were not that different from the parental reports. A study from 1959, which defined “social smiles” as seeking eye-contact before smiling, found that none of the 400 babies in the study smiled during the first week. Only 11% showed a social smile by two weeks of age. About 60% had socially smiled by three weeks, and almost all of them had socially smiled within the first month”. 

This study highlights how natural and embedded smiling is in our social reactions.  We have many different kinds of smiles and the most common ones that follow us through life. Social smiles might be the most common and the ones that have the healthiest effects on our confidence, identity, and how we feel maneuvering around this strange world. So while the research isn’t clear that faking a smile will make your body chemically happier, it might be good for other people, your relationships and your impact on the world.

Why your smile does good for others

When you are happy you are more likely to crack open a big grin.  Smiling, whether it is big or small, has positive effects on our interpersonal relationships.  You know how they say laughter is contagious? Think back on a time where you laughed or smiled genuinely just because someone around you was? You probably have experienced this already today!  

While smiling is more common in some people than others, it is still a universal language.  It doesn’t matter what country you go to, or your age (past week 3), a smile shows others you are approachable, and maybe even a more kind and trustworthy person.  Smiling connects us with others and makes us feel a deeper connection and closeness. This is because of our lifelong experiences with smiles indicating a positive reaction and representing a safe and positive relationship. So whether you are alone, amongst strangers or speaking with your dearest friend - really let loose with a full grin.  Treat yourself and others to these wonderful benefits. 

Taking care of your smile

When you experience high blood sugar, it can take a toll on your entire body, including all the most important parts of your beautiful smile.  Managing your blood sugar levels is very important to keep healthy gums, and teeth, and combating dry mouth.  

Make a commitment to manage your overall health, paired with a consistent daily dental routine to prevent things like cavities, gum disease, thrush and chronic dry mouth.  Having a well-rounded healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and not smoking doesn’t just help manage your glycemic health but will also contribute to your healthy smile! 

Not only should you brush your teeth twice daily and floss at least once, you should stay vigilant about going to your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup.  Remind your dentist that you have type 2 before and during your visit.  They may have additional ways to help you prevent damage to your teeth and gums as you age. 

Find other tips on living a healthy lifestyle with type 2 by joining our online community, Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together. Here, you can join thousands of other type 2’s as we share in our interconnected experiences.