The Power of a Smile

CBA Wellness
Author: Pooja Chugh, Chair, CBA Well-being Subcommittee

One smile is all it takes to improve your mood, energy, and overall health.

One smile is all it takes to help someone have a better day.

One smile is all it takes to make a difference in this world.

One smile can make a powerful impact that ripples past our immediate surroundings.

In 2019, Eliud Kipchoge created a new world record and succeeded in becoming the first person ever to run a marathon (26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers) in less than two hours. He tackled and prevailed against a challenge which not long ago, seemed unattainable. Watching Eliud Kipchoge run was inspiring on many levels. In witnessing him accomplish something that seemed humanly impossible, there were plenty of lessons to learn from him about overcoming obstacles that can be applied to everyday life. While he maintained incredible speed through seemingly effortless form, it was his strategy to the cope with discomfort during the most strenuous segments of the race that was most impressive.

As a viewer and an athlete myself, I noticed that during the demanding segments of the race, Eliud Kipchoge’s facial expression was not showing the agony from the strain of running at an incredible speed, but that he was smiling. He was not smiling because he was confident of accomplishing his goal or because he was trying to camouflage his fatigue in front of the audience. He simply smiled to help him relax and maintain positive energy and spirits when the intensity started to rise. The power of a smile helped Eliud Kipchoge create history and become the world’s fastest marathoner.

Eliud Kipchoge’s smiling strategy is not limited to runners. As lawyers, we are constantly working in a stressful environment and often face situations of high pressure and stress; and therefore, studied have found lawyers to experience feelings high rates of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. However, smiling can help anyone feel better, in such situations. All it takes is just one smile.

A study led by Noel Brick, researcher in sport and exercise psychology at the University of Ulster, found that facial expressions and their accompanying emotional states are associated with one another. As a result, when a person makes a facial expression of smiling, they are likely to experience the emotional state of happiness. Studies show that smiling helps relax the facial muscles; and thus, elicit positive emotional effects and improvement in mood.

The act of smiling activates neural networks which improves mood and reduces stress. Brian Luke Seward’s paper, Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being discusses how smiling stimulates neural connections which lead to stress reduction. The neural connections stimulated by smiling also cause a surge in the mood boosting endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, leading to feelings of happiness. Smiling not only induces a positive impact to mental well-being, but also contributes to improved physical health as smiling has also been shown to lower high heart rates and blood pressure.

Smiling does not just improve your personal health and well-being, but also significantly impacts those around you. Your smile is literally contagious! In a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, Automatic mimicry reactions as related to differences in emotional empathy, when participants were shown images of facial expressions of various emotions, the images of a person smiling triggered the participants naturally to mimic the facial expression and smile as well. When you smile at someone, they are likely to start smiling as well. Not only is your smile boosting your mood, but also making a positive impact to another person.

The power of a smile must not be underestimated. A smile shares hope, affection, and peace. A smile has the power to bring light in the darkness, to bring positive energy in the day, to reduce stress in life and to bring greater happiness in the world.

One smile is all it takes. Give it a try. Smile. Watch how suddenly, you will feel its immense power and impact in elevating your mood and well-being. In an instant, you will have changed your life, your career, and someone else’s too. So, before we conclude this article, “let’s smile”.


  1. It may be that if you smile the world will smile with you to paraphrase Stanley Gordon West. A genuine smile is always welcome. However, this article brought to mind smiles that are not reflected in the eyes, especially if in deed the eyes are the mirror to ones soul. On that notion and as a precaution, it should be noted that there is “smile mask syndrome” as proposed by Professor Makoto Natsume who while “counselling students from the university in his practice and noticing that a number of students had spent so much time faking their smiles that they were unaware that they were smiling even while relating stressful or upsetting experiences to him. Natsume attributes this to the great importance placed on smiling in the Japanese service industry, particularly for young women.” (Wikipedia) Also there is the existence of what is termed “smiling depression” as described by the US’s National Alliance on Mental Health: “Smiling depression involves appearing happy to others and smiling through the pain, keeping the inner turmoil hidden. It’s a major depressive disorder with atypical symptoms, and as a result, many don’t know they’re depressed or don’t seek help. People with smiling depression are often partnered or married, employed and are quite accomplished and educated. Their public, professional and social lives are not struggling. Their façade is put together and accomplished.”