I walked into our local coffee shop today and was greeted by a friendly and smiling barista as he took my order. My returned smile remained on my face as I turned to walk up to the counter to wait for my drink, which was seen by a woman already there waiting for her drink. She smiled back. That was a moment of feeling accepted, spreading my happiness, and receiving it back.

Smiling is truly contagious, as the mirror neurons deep inside our brains respond to a smile with a smile of our own. You can even count on more than half of your smiles being returned.

There's a reason why we like to smile--it releases feel-good neurotransmitters like endorphins, dopamine, and mood-enhancing serotonin that do a body a whole lot of good. Smiling is a powerful life lift when practiced daily and frequently. Here are 13 reasons to share the gift of a smile right now.

1. Build trust with a smile.

Studies have proved that a genuine smile increases the trust that the recipient of that smile feels. In fact, the bigger your smile (not a crazy smile, but a big approachable smile), the more others will trust you. Building trust is an absolute must for business and individual success, and when you give your customers a warm smile, they are much more likely to trust you.

2. Help your heart.

Smiling not only can relax your body, it also has the power to slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and decrease your chances of heart disease.

3. Become popular.

Most of us are hesitant to approach someone who is frowning, but we are naturally drawn to those who smile--we want to know them and why they radiate happiness.

4. Increase your positivity.

Those who smile often are much more likely to feel positive and content with their lives.

5. Increase your productivity.

Smiling can diminish negativity--revitalizing and boosting your productivity. Studies have proved that a few minutes of smiling and laughter motivates people to work harder and can even enhance creativity.

6. Be more youthful.

People who smile appear more youthful. The muscles we use to smile lift our faces--no need for a face-lift, just smile more. The added bonus is that when you smile, you are more attractive to others.

7. Find success, one smile at a time.

When we smile at others, we exude confidence. Studies have even found that those who smile frequently make more money in tips (like my barista this morning), are much more likely to receive a raise, and more likely to move up the ladder compared with their far-too-often frowning, grumpy peers.

8. Be the best leader you can be.

Studies have proved that smiling is an extremely effective leadership tool. Co-workers and employees are much more receptive to leaders who smile--begin and end a request with a congenial smile.

9. Lower stress and improve your mood.

Too much stress in life can cause myriad problems, including obesity, asthma, headaches, Alzheimer's disease, and even premature death. Smiling reduces stress and cuts your risk of these stress-related risks. It improves your mood significantly, as well as that of others who are lucky enough to witness your smile.

10. Pump up your immune system.

Smiling and its relaxing qualities help rev up your immune system. Smile more to ward off colds and stay healthy.

11. Reduce your pain.

The release of your feel-good neurotransmitters that come from a real, to-your-eyes smile acts as a natural painkiller.

12. Live longer.

Studies have proved that you can add up to seven more years to your life by smiling often. Who doesn't want that?

13. Be an activist for happiness.

Your smile can lighten the mood of any situation your find yourself in and has the power to lift the mood of those who see your friendly expression. Bring more happiness to the world--greet everyone with a smile.

Published on: Feb 13, 2015