Dr. Michael Mantell coaches people to stir their healing power in the medicine of laughter and play. Living with stress, feeling uptight, being worried, not sleeping, and thinking limiting thoughts, kill the joy in your life—as well as your health and wellbeing.

One of the best anti-stress medicines we have is free, has no negative side effects and you can take as much as you want. But the likelihood is you aren’t taking enough. Smiling, playing and laughing have been described as taking an “internal jog,” massaging your inner organs and giving them a workout. That’s got to be healthy for you!

How frequently do you laugh? How often do you smile? How often do you play? Research has found that four-year-old children smile and laugh about 400 times a day while for adults, smiles and laughter decrease to only 14 times a day. What’s going on?
One of the best ways to smile more often is to PLAY more often. While there are many theoretical and scientific definitions of play, I frankly like mine the best. When play has the following four ingredients, it’s likely to put a smile on your face and in your heart. The purposeless, fun, pleasurable act of playing is vital for healthy relationships, creativity and successful problem-solving.

PLAY = Pleasurable, Laughter, Amusing and Youthful

While many corners of our culture still seem to dismiss play for adults, it appears to be turning around. Play is no longer seen as something that’s just a guilty pleasure. Adulthood is no longer “a time to get serious.” Today, we finally recognize that just as it is important for children, play is important for adults as well.
Smiling, playful, happy people are thought to have more friends and be more successful by appearing more confident and approachable. Studies on college students show that “smilers” are perceived as more optimistic, reliable, and better leaders than their “non-smiling” counterparts.

According to The British Dental Health Foundation, a smile gives the same level of stimulation as eating 2,000 chocolate bars. Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Foundation, pointed out, "We have long been drawing attention to the fact that smiling increases happiness both in yourself and those around you, so it is good to receive the backing of this scientific research ... A healthy smile can improve your confidence, help you make friends and help you to succeed in your career ... "

Research demonstrates that smiling improves and strengthens our immune system and can help prevent a number of diseases. Laughter therapy has curative agents that assist in treating several diseases such as hypertension, ulcers, arthritis, stroke, diabetes and even heart diseases. It offers good relaxation and helps you relieve stress and depression.

Laughing reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and gives us a quick burst of energy. A good laugh can be beneficial to the lungs, boost immunity, and can even burn off calories.

The physical act of smiling can use as little as 5 muscles or well over 16 of the 44 muscles in our faces (an average smile involves 14 muscles) and just like any muscle the more you use it, the stronger it is. When we smile and laugh our blood pressure goes up and then comes down. We stretch our lungs, relax our chests, and breathe easier.

A true smile begins at the eyes, specifically the orbicularis oculi muscle, which involves another involuntary facial movement; blinking. While smiling and blinking are triggered automatically, the muscle can also be moved voluntary. Notice that if you check your smile in the mirror, or in another person, the most convincing area is around the eyes. Most fake smiles are like a grimace and just an exaggerated lifting of the mouth muscles. That can help in spotting the true emotions of others and enable you to return an eye-to-eye smile.

A genuine smile is known as a ‘Duchenne smile’ after the French physician Guillanne Duchenn. This involves smiling with the mouth and crinkling around the corners of your eyes.

A polite functional smile is known as a ‘Pan American smile’, and involves stretching the mouth, but doesn’t use the eyes.

You know the difference. One is genuine, “I’m really glad to see you here.” The other is perfunctory nod, “Hey, I’m smiling back, that’s enough.”

The eyes and lips are powerful weapons that everyone is equipped with at birth. When used for good, this weapon can exert a significant amount of health and happiness on the smiler and recipient. So become the center of a positive change ripple. Squeeze your zygomatic major, squint your orbicularis oculi, and if you really want to get things flowing … expose your teeth ☺.

Proverbs 17:22 puts it like this, “A happy heart is like a good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing.” Maybe they knew something back then, after all.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. His career includes serving as the Chief Psychologist for Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and as the founding Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He served on the faculty of UCSD’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry. After 40 years of diagnosing and treating those with mental illness, he has fully retired from clinical practice---and as he describes, is now “reFired” and “reWired.”

He now provides advanced behavior agility coaching/mentoring for sustainable strategic outcomes in mindful, values driven and positively adaptive ways to business leaders, entrepreneurs, athletes, individuals, families and organizations to reach breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives.

Michael is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Science for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa, and served as the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise. He travels the world speaking with fitness and health professionals to provide the most current thinking and tools for behavior change. He has been a member of SAG/AFTRA since 1981, having appeared regularly on Good Morning America, as well as numerous talk shows and weekly appearances on TV and radio news.

Michael is an Organizational Advisor to Fitwall, Rock My Run, amSTATZ, speaks for Rancho La Puerta and the Asia Fitness Convention, in addition to numerous other fitness-health organizations throughout the nation. He is interviewed frequently for fitness and health magazines including Details Magazine, Men’s Health USA and UK, Women’s Health US and UK, Weight Watchers, Shape, Natural Health, Real Simple, Women’s World, MetRx, Better Homes and Gardens and a host of others in the health/wellness/fitness world. He has written for, and spoken for the International Council on Active Aging, the Medical Fitness Association, Athletic Business,, IHRSA, and a host of other professional organizations in the health and fitness fields. He has been a keynote speaker/presenter for the University of California’s FitCon, UCLA’s “Stress Less Week,” and UC-Irvine’s “Building Healthy Academic Communities.”

He is a best-selling author of three books including the 25th Anniversary updated edition of his 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff,” and his 1996, “Ticking Bombs: Defusing Violence in the Workplace.” Heis listed in greatist.com’s 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.” His fourth book is due out soon.