The Health Benefits of Smiling!

443Celeste Yarnall  by AM Hi res 231

“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
~ Mother Teresa

It’s so easy in our everyday lives to become consumed by all all the things we have to do, as well as the financial pressures we must endure when money is tight. Feeling down and negative about it all, from time to time strikes all of us, but even when you feel your own stress building up inside you, did you know that perhaps the very best thing you can do is put on a happy face? Yes, even if it means you have to force a phoney smile.

“Peace begins with a smile.”
~ Mother Teresa

It has been said that a photograph or the on camera face of a wholesome female model or actress (perhaps actor), looking right into the camera induces people to buy products–so we know advertisers know the power of a smile! We all inherently know the power of a smile too! We feel good whilst smiling and we feel good when we are smiled at.

Recently however, we find that the simple, natural act of smiling actually helps our health by lowering our heart rate and relieving our stress levels.

An interesting study, took place at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, required participants to hold a variety of facial expressions while enduring stress-provoking situations. The researchers recruited 169 college-age volunteers, of whom half were men and half were women. They were provided with chopsticks and taught to hold them in their mouths while making certain facial expressions. They produced a neutral look, a smile that only involved the mouth, and a Duchenne smile, which is more of a true smile that requires activity in muscles of both the mouth and the eyes. To half of the subjects, the suggestion was made that the Duchnenne smile was to be made like a smile. The other half was simply directed on the muscular action needed.

The entire group of participants were told they would be multi-tasking while holding the chopsticks in their mouths and keeping a particular expression on their faces. The tasks they needed to perform were designed to be difficult and therefore heighten their stress levels. For instance, the volunteers were made to trace a star shape using their non-dominant hand working off a mirror reflection or plunging a hand into ice water (not something we usually would want to smile about).

The researchers monitored the heart rates of the subjects both during and after the tasks. The smilers had lower heart rates than those wearing neutral expressions. The greatest difference was found in those who executed a Duchenne smile that is most similar to a true smile. However, even the participants who formed a smile with their mouths only had lower heart rates than those keeping a neutral face, suggesting that any sort of grin–even a completely fake smile–can be beneficial.

Researchers know today that we produce greater quantities of both adrenaline and cortisol when undergoing stress. This “fight or flight” or as I add even faint reaction, increases the heart rate and affects blood flow to ensure the vital organs of the core of the body are receiving their fair share at the expense of the extremities. Therefore, having a lower heart rate means we are not feeling or reacting to the stress nearly as much.

According to the results of this study, smiling would appear to have some sort of calming effect. In fact, blood pressure rates were also noted to be lower in many of the smiling volunteers, but not all. Since the same hormones in the body that affect heart rate also increase blood pressure, it’s interesting that those results were not as consistent. The difference could possibly be due to high blood pressure being a long-term condition that develops over time and is affected by overeating and other poor health habits, whereas a quickened heart rate is generally short term. Then again, in some people the higher blood pressure could have been the result of hardened arteries, which would not have changed no matter how much one smiled.

Earlier research about smiling has produced mixed results. A 2011 study at Michigan State University in East Lansing found that people who had to be polite all day at work and produce fake smiles ended up with overall worse moods than others. Yet, when those same subjects were told to conjure their smiles based on happy thoughts, both their moods and their productivity levels increased.

Most of us have heard that when we smile we release a chemical message deep within our brain known as an Endorphin. Once released these Endorphins travel down our spine sending feel good messages throughout the rest of our body.

These Endorphins are known to be strong enough to reduce symptoms of physical, or emotional pain, as they
envelop us in a nice warm feeling of well being. They are a chemical of approximately the same strength as another pharmaceutical chemical that we all know of known as Morphine.

Endorphins have that wonderful ability to make us feel happy, and whenever we all smile, we release them. So even if you are not happy when you begin to smile, you will be afterwards, and the more often that you smile then the happier you will feel!

I think, since it costs us nothing to smile and I know I feel better when I do then why not smile as often as possible. If the first thing we would do when faced with stressful people or situations was smile we might unnerve them to such a degree that we neutralize the stressful event right in its tracks. This might even turn into a giggle or full on laugh fest.

It’s nice to see that this has been the subject of scientific scrutiny but, If you think about it, there really is no downside to smiling. It’s time to be proud of our laugh lines which I think are far better than frown lines. And besides stress is very dangerous for all of us: to our mental status, physical health, and overall well-being, it even upsets our companion animals, so for their sake, smile!

A smile may not be a ‘cure all’ but it certainly seems to help us get through all that is going on in the world, or even some of the problems in our own life. It would truly be great if we could truly lower or normalize our heart rate and stress level even if just by a tiny bit; it’s certainly a start.

The act of smiling at or with the one you love can keep you both in the most healthful stage of all known as the honeymoon stage of a loving relationship!

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I’ll take smiling over taking blood pressure or anti-anxiety medication or developing a stress-induced ailment. It’s worth remembering that smiling is contagious and you have the power to make other people smile, and you can do this by simply passing your smile on to others.

Let’s starting spreading smiles because they might just turn to all out laughter, just like what happened to these folks on a German train before everyone knew it, everyone was laughing!

It all starts with a smile!

Photo’s of Celeste Yarnall and Nazim Artist by Alan Mercer

 

“Mistletoe might be the Kiss of Death to Cancer!”

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By Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D According to ScienceDaily, Nov. 30, 2012 — It seems that the age old traditional Christmas decoration, Mistletoe has the potential to play a vital role as an alternative therapy for sufferers of colon cancer. But long ago mistletoe … Continue reading

Consider these 5 Botanicals in your daily regime

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By Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D We all have heard that certain botanicals, herbs, etc., are antioxidant in their actions, but what actually are antioxidants? As the name implies, antioxidants are substances that are capable of counteracting the damaging, but normal, effects of … Continue reading

Do We Have the Power To Heal Ourselves?

Do We Have the Power To Heal Ourselves? 

By Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D  Artwork courtesy of http://www.NazimArtist.com

“The Art of Medicine Consists of Amusing the Patient While Nature Cures the Disease.”

 –Voltaire

Just for a moment, forget all we have been taught about evidenced based medicine and the hallowed halls of science today and just ponder for a few moments the possiblity of a world where we might not ever need a physician or healthcare provider or not ever need a doctor to write a prescription for a drug again. Could the ability to heal ourselves be locked in our DNA, like the lizards that lose their tail and grow a new one? Could this ability be lurking somewhere maybe even in what they refer to as ‘junk’ DNA? What about a world where we wouldn’t need to go to the local health food store to purchase an herbal preparation or a homeopathic remedy or have to endure the slings and arrows of all those negative nay-sayer types whom we all know so well who shoot down anything and everything that is deemed unscientific in the world of energy healing. Isn’t it amazing that it usually takes less than 100 years for todays absolute science to become tomorrows nonsense? A hundred years ago blood letting was the state of the art. If we only we had a crystal ball how many could be helped from suffering through treatments offered today that one day will be deemed harmful and even deadly. What if all healing could be done right inside of our own minds but we just don’t have the tools as of yet to know how to do it? Is it possible that it is there right inside of us and we just need to find the keys to unlock its secret door? What could this kind of magical self healing system open up? What would happen to Big Pharma and our current medical system if it was possible for us to heal ourselves? Would it ever even be allowed to exist, as most likely we would be able to access it for free?

Let’s explore something that is very much part of the 800-million dollar cost to bring a drug to market today; that little sugar pill known as the ‘placebo.’

Newtonian scientists who come from the world of “only matter matters,” find that natural remedies (unless they can stick natural ingredients like fish oil into a patented delivery system or process and make a drug with it) are for the most part described as having a ‘placebo effect.’ The same holds true when scientists look at Homeopathy, and other systems of healing based on an energy meridian system, such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). It never fails that we will quickly hear the term ‘placebo effect’ thrown right back at us when these modalities are offered. We can just visualize the ‘usual suspects’ with their hands over their ears muttering ‘la la la’ if we were bold enough to suggest that somebody spend some of their millions on a really big study that could explore our inate ability to heal ourselves, could it ever happen? Probably not, as there has to be something financiallly beneficial for the folks who pay for the study and the doctors who get those lucrative grants to do it! If we could heal ourselves who would make a profit in corporate controlled America where that now famous 1% hold the wealth and power?

There is something going on right now that does seem to be shaking up the scientific troops a bit and that is the fact that Big Pharma has done an amazing job of keeping from ‘us,’ just how potent placebos actually are in the world of drug testing! Also just bear in mind that the third leading cause of death in the Western medical model is from allopathic medicine, this is referred to as ‘iatrogenic,’ meaning induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon, or by a medical treatment or diagnostic procedure. Dr. Leape of the Harvard Medical School of Public health has stated brilliantly, “Medicine is a high risk industry, like aviation. But the chance of dying in an aviation accident is one in 2 million, while the risk of dying from a medical accident is one in 200!” Wow, I know of orthopaedic surgeons who tell their hip or knee replacement patients to take a permanent marker and mark which knee or hip is to be replaced in big block letters, so they don’t operate on the wrong leg!
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While doing a bit of my Celestial Musings, (I have been nick-named Celestial, ‘long not short’ for Celeste), all my life, I found it quite compelling to learn that for years these folks in the hallowed halls of Western Medicine have been protecting a dirty little secret weapon called the ‘placebo’ which causes what has been known for many years as the ‘placebo effect.’

n Wired Magazine, writer Steve Silberman, wrote an article in August of 2009 entitled, “Placebos Are Getting More Effective, Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why.” This is quite an eye-opening article. I find it amazing to think that Big Pharma has actually been worried about the lowly little placebo for a very long time and I thought it might be interesting to share a bit of it what is happening in order to take a serious look at it.

Many people do not even know where the term ‘placebo effect’ comes from. But in truth it can be traced to a little white lie, according to Silberman, who tells the story of an Army nurse during World War II in Italy who was assisting an anesthetist named Henry Beecher, who was caring for our US troops under German bombardment. When their morphine supply had trickled down to nothing, this nurse assured a wounded soldier, that he was getting a shot of a potent painkiller, though her syringe was loaded only with, saline solution (salt water). Amazingly, the bogus injection relieved the soldier’s excruciating pain and kept him from going into shock!

Beecher returned ultimately to Harvard and became one of the USA’s leading medical reformers. He was so inspired by the nurse’s clever ruse, that he launched a crusade to promote a method of testing new medicines to find out whether they were truly effective. At the time, the process for testing the efficacy of drugs was not very good. Pharmaceutical companies would simply give volunteers some experimental agent of some sort until the side effects would overcome the presumed benefits. Beecher proposed that if test subjects could be compared to a group that received a placebo (a sugar pill), health officials would finally have an impartial way to determine whether a medicine was actually responsible for making a patient better.

The placebo plot thickened; in a 1955 paper entitled “The Powerful Placebo,” which was published in “The Journal of the American Medical Association,” Beecher described how the ‘placebo effect’ had undermined the results of more than a dozen trials by causing improvement that was mistakenly attributed to the drugs being tested. He demonstrated that trial volunteers who got real medication were also subject to placebo effects; the act of taking a pill was itself somehow therapeutic, boosting the curative power of the medicine. Only by subtracting the improvement in a placebo control group could the actual value of the drug be calculated.

The article caused a sensation. By 1962, the news of birth defects caused by the drug, Thalidomide, and its tragic consequences were of such monumental proportions, they hit every front page of America’s Newspapers. The only silver lining of this horror story was that it caused Congress to amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, requiring trials to include enhanced safety testing and placebo control groups. Volunteers would be assigned randomly to receive either medicine or a sugar pill, and neither doctor nor patient would know the difference until the trial was over.

Beecher’s double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial—or RCT—was enshrined as the gold standard of the emerging pharmaceutical industry. Today, to win FDA approval, a new medication must beat placebo in at least two authenticated trials. The question now can be carefully posed…are they worth the paper they are printed on? Why you might ask? Because, even the color of the pills in these studies is at play; yellow is the best for antidepressants as it is like a little dose of sunshine, red pills provide a stimulating effect and give you a kick in the behind, green and perhaps even blue, add a bit of chill to the pill, and white are more soothing to the gut, particularly as an antacid even if they only contain lactose (milk sugar).

It also seems that more pills are better so that if you take your placebo several times a day you get better results and if your pills are embossed with a name brand like Tylenol, the name branding on them seems to make them work better than generic, even if the person offering the tablet to the user, says they are the same! Now how about that? Can we see the power that we each hold in our own belief systems!

It is true, that Beecher in fact did help to cure the medical establishment of its own brand of quackery, but it had a really big side effect – it cast the lowly little placebo as the villain in RCTs, and Beecher ended up stigmatizing one of his most important discoveries. The fact that even dummy capsules can kick-start the body’s recovery engine have now become a problem for drug developers to overcome, rather than a phenomenon that could guide doctors toward a better understanding of the healing process of our miraculous bodies and how to drive it most effectively into perhaps healing itself. Where would the ‘big bucks’ be in that?

Beecher just didn’t see the handwriting on the wall nor foresee, the explosive growth of the pharmaceutical industry. The blockbuster success of mood enhancing drugs in the ’80s and ’90s beefed up Big Pharma’s resolve to promote pharmaceutical drugs for a growing cache of mental disorders. One might also ask, which comes first the drug or the new disease or the condition to match it? Even Dr. Oz asked this question on National TV. The question however was not answered to anyones satisfaction when his show aired even though he pitted the Big Pharma ‘rep’ against his expert adversary. One can only ask, “whom shall guard the guardians” especially if they have the power to create the disease first and then the drug or vaccine to market as a treatment for it?

By attempting to dominate the central nervous system, Big Pharma gambled its future on treating ailments that have turned out to be particularly susceptible to the placebo effect. I’m so worried about their financial future, aren’t you? Pardon my sarcasm but when I see the millions of dollars spent on television commercials of epic proportion designed to make us ask our own doctors to give us the drugs we see advertised as if they are the latest ‘must have’ designer footwear, I get a little upset! But just let us dare to walk into our doctors with a new supplement and see how fast they will shoot that idea down in favor of the drug tested against a placebo. I really have to commend their creativity with the creation and marketing of Lovaza which is really just plain old fish oil with a twist and a huge price tag which medicare covers even for the greedy doctors who seem to be too cheap to buy their own supplements and instead take advantage of the system to get it for free!

What about all those clinical trials they wave around, you ask? Remember they don’t have to use the studies that don’t support their drugs, they can use just the ones that do and throw out all the others. It has been said that $100,000 can buy you any outcome ‘they’ want to get from a clinical trial because ‘they’ control whom the drug is tested on and who the placebo is tested on. Since when are any of us the same in a control study group? My cold or flu virus may be a lot different from yours. I might cough and you might have sinus congestion but yet we’d both get the same drug during the test period! And then we might ask, do drugs ever really cure anything or just palliate the symptoms? Remember the days of having a bladder infection and taking the drugs only to have the yeast infection two weeks later and then require another drug for that? We end up chasing symptoms around our body with multiple drugs, which interfere with each other causing more symptoms and so the cycle begins. We just keep palliating these symptoms until something much more catastrophic rears its ugly head..and then we wonder “why me?”

Why on Earth could it be that the Big Pharma boys are now so worried about placebo’s? Why is it that these inert sugar pills are suddenly overwhelming what they refer to as promising new drugs (promising only if you don’t listen to or read the side effects) and already established drugs alike? The reasons are only just beginning to be understood. A group of independent research experts have been for some time actually delving into this phenomena and uncovering the inner workings—and potential therapeutic applications—of the placebo effect. Can they patent a sugar pill with a special delivery system? I wonder!

You can bet on the fact that some drug makers are realizing they need to fully understand the mechanisms behind it so they can design specific trials that differentiate between any positive effects of their products (if indeed there are any) and our body’s precious ability to heal itself. A special task force was even initiated by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, by the time Silberman had written his article, which began seeking to stem this placebo vs. drug crisis by quietly undertaking one of the most ambitious data-sharing efforts in the history of the drug industry. After decades in the jungles of fringe science, the placebo effect has become, as Silberman states, “the elephant in the boardroom.”

Now a new term has been coined and that is known as ‘the placebo response,’ instead of ‘placebo effect.’ By definition, inert sugar pills have no effect, but under the right conditions they can act as a catalyst for the body’s ‘endogenous health care system.’ Like any other internal network, the ‘placebo response’ has limits. It can ease the discomfort of say chemotherapy, but can it stop the growth of a tumor? It also works in reverse to produce the placebo’s evil twin, the ‘nocebo effect.’ What on Earth is a ‘nocebo?” A nocebo works like this; men taking a commonly prescribed prostate drug who were informed that the medication may cause sexual dysfunction were twice as likely to become impotent.

There’s more to this tale; everything also depends on the messenger! If a particular doctor was optimistic that something would work it had a better chance of working. No wonder the phrase ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ was coined. Could the diagnosis/prognosis actually be the killer instead of the disease as the body processes its own death sentence?

These very same Newtonian (materialistic) scientists we’ve surrendered so much control to, are seeking ways to suppress and keep this information regarding the ‘placebo response’ quiet and unknown to the ‘pill popping’ public who are constantly told that anything outside the mainstream, such as alternative or natural medicine, is bogus. Please do note that they do seem always to be the first to use the argument of the ‘placebo effect’ to take down homeopathy, or even acupuncture and every other form of energy medicine or natural healing that calls upon the body to heal itself or even to nourish it…well of course they would, it’s so simple…homeopathic and/or acupuncture and other natural remedies, even whole food supplements cannot be patented and only that which can be patented makes Big Pharma their fortunes.

Western medical doctors and pharmaceutical makers take the approach that the living thing is the victim of its circumstances because it is just a collection of body parts and organ systems which are subject to mechanical breakdowns, like a car, due to circumstances outside the individuals control, maybe with the exception of obesity. Obese patients are always given a load of guilt even though ‘they pushed the so-called ‘pyramid’ diet for far too many years, which in turn pushed empty cereals and grains to the bottom and quality protein and healthy fat to the top! Remember how to fatten cattle? Just feed them lot’s of low fat grain! Turn the food pyramid upside down and actually lose weight in a healthy way because if you don’t they will try to sell you the lap band surgery!

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be consciously empowered with the knowledge that if we can get ourselves into a particular state of health we also can have the power to get ourselves out of it? If a sugar pill can work just because the Big Pharma folks in white coats tell people to take it and they will feel better and or get well, AND THEY DO, just think, what we could do for ourselves armed with access to just the right technique or belief system or even the perfect placebo or sugar pill, might we be able in the foreseeable future to heal ourselves? Now that is a healthy thought to ponder!

Artwork courtesy of http://www.NazimArtist.com

First published at: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/do-we-have-the-power-to-heal-ourselves.html#ixzz1v3DW0mgl