Smile and the world smiles with you: give a grin on World Smile Day 

To celebrate World Smile Day, our fitness team share the activities that make them happy.

You’re never fully dressed without one, and the world likes to do it with you – yes, we’re talking about smiling. The first Friday of October is World Smile Day, and that got us thinking how great it is to grin. There’s proven health benefits to smiling, too – even if you’ve got to fake it ‘til you make it.

As well as increasing happiness, a smile can help lower blood pressure, alleviate stress, and boost your immune system. Smiling releases endorphins, the happy hormone, which automatically helps our body to relax. These endorphins can also have a moderate effect on reducing pain, too.

One of my favourite bodily responses to a smile is that it can increase endurance. According to research, a smile can trick your body into thinking it’s not working as hard as it actually is. I need to remember to flash a grin when my workout gets tough!

Being active is another great way to improve mental wellbeing, and a good way to make us smile. Even though we might not always feel like doing it, we tend to feel better after we get moving. We’re a happy, smiling bunch here at Saga Exceptional, so we thought we’d share the activities that make us happy – we hope you’ll try our top tips and smile at the same time.  

Group of people smiling looking down at camera.Credit: Shutterstock/

Sweat it out

The gym is my happy place. Lifting weights makes me feel invincible and like I can do anything I put my mind to. No matter how I feel when I start my workout, I am always smiling at the end. I also teach kettlebells to a group of 20 women. I always tell them: “No one ever regrets a workout, only the ones they didn’t do.”  

It doesn’t need to be hours long. For me, a 20-minute brisk walk gives me just as much of a boost as my two-hour-long Saturday gym sessions. Another thing I love to do is swim in the sea. If you’re lucky enough to live near the coast, as I do, just a quick dip (however cold it is) can invigorate you and put a massive smile on your face.  

Try adding more movement into your day and see the positive effect it has on your wellbeing – I guarantee you won’t regret it.  


Step outside

“Getting outside for a walk is like hitting my reset button,” says fitness channel editor, Phillipa Cherryson. 

“If things get too much, I put my boots on and head to the woods near my home. Even just 20 minutes walking through the trees and taking some deep breaths puts everything back in perspective again.” 

There are numerous benefits of walking, including to your mental health. You really can walk yourself happy by getting out into nature, using mindfulness apps or making the most of the quiet. 

Group walks have been found to be especially beneficial and this is where Cherryson says she sees the biggest transformation in people. 

“I’ve organised walks for hundreds of people, and I love watching how the group members are transformed. They arrive, often looking a bit nervous or hunched over, and as the day goes on, they change. They walk a little taller, they start to smile, their faces relax and soon they are laughing and chatting together. 

“It’s the reason why I keep organising group walks. Everyone goes home with a big smile on their face – and that includes me.” 

Dig deep

“Gardening has brought me so much joy throughout my life,” says our gardening editor, Simon Akeroyd.  “I love seeing the changes of season. There is always something new to see each day when you step out into your garden, whether it’s newly emerged flowers or seedlings, a beautiful wildlife sighting, the soporific sound of a buzzing bumble bee, enjoying the scent of cut grass or even just admiring a gorgeous sunset or rainbow. 

“Being outdoors is so good for your soul and wellbeing. I always make sure I set aside some time each day to go outside in the garden to relax, chill and be at one with nature – and occasionally pull out a weed! 

“Unless it’s pouring with rain – in which case I’ll visit my shed, enjoy the smell of the compost and damp earth, and revel in the sound of raindrops falling on the roof. Either way, come rain or sunshine, I love gardening and plants, and they always make me smile.” 

Take a dip

Wellbeing writer Julie Penfold says: “Being in the water, whether that’s swimming in your local pool or floating on your back in your favourite wild swimming spot, can help to put a smile on your face. Swimming can help to improve your mood, increase self-esteem, and enable you to switch off and tune out from life’s stresses. You can even practise swimming mindfully by shifting your attention to your breath, and noticing how the water feels as you move through it.” 

Rowan Clarke is an outdoor swimming coach and keen wild swimmer who has competed in long-distance events and swum in water as cold as -1C (32F). 

“When you go into open water, it’s just you and the environment, and it strips away all the outside stress and rubbish we put up with as adults,” she explains. “I think that’s really the core of why it’s so good for you, as all you can think about is the cold water, your swimming stroke and enjoying being in nature.

“Swimming is just huge for my physical and mental health, but particularly my mental health. When I first started swimming outdoors again as an adult, I was in a postnatal fog, and it helped me so much. It gave me better focus and rebuilt my identity. I’ve also made amazing friendships and had some incredible experiences through outdoor swimming.” 

Lace up your running shoes

Our managing editor, Sarah Brealey, is a keen runner and enjoys coming up with beautiful routes through different London parks.  

She says: “Whenever I go for a run, I almost always see something that makes me smile. Blue sky and the sun on my face, if I’m lucky. Other people’s dogs excited about being out for a walk – especially the ones proudly carrying a stick a bit too big for them.  

“The family of swans in my local park, and the fact that almost everyone else seems to love the swan family, too. The herons and other birds that also make the parks their home. And I love running along the River Thames, and the way it looks a bit different every time I see it.” 


Pick up the feather duster

Cleaning might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of things that make us smile, but surely no one can deny how good it feels to get into clean sheets at night, or to admire a sparkling bathroom. Staff writer for homes, Sarah Harley, points out that it’s a great way to get active, too.  

Cleaning for me is my happy place,” she says. “It’s therapeutic and always has been. And while there is generally some grimacing during the process, I can guarantee it always ends with a grin. Whether it’s decluttering a wardrobe or simply taking some time out to reduce the visual noise with a bout of home hushing, it never fails to make me feel better.  

“Plus, have you seen how many steps you manage to squeeze in with a top-to-bottom house clean? Fitness can take many forms and, for me, it’s absolutely all gain and no pain when the end result is a satisfyingly clean and ordered home.”   

Sweet dreams are made of this

A good night’s sleep is a surefire way to make many of us smile, but did you know there’s evidence that going to bed feeling positive could make you have happy dreams? Staff writer for sleep, Rebecca Frew, explains:  

“You don’t have to be awake to have a happy grin. One study found participants smiled and laughed during sleep, suggesting that facial expressions were associated with a happy dreaming scenario. 

“When you’re settling down for sleep tonight, reflect on the happy moments of your day to influence positive smiley dreams. 

“After a good night’s rest, I wake feeling happy and ready to take on the day – as I’m sure many of you do – and that makes me smile.” 

Don’t feel like smiling? No problem, faking one is also good for you

Penfold says: “Forming a smile – even when you don’t feel like it – can help to improve your mood and increase feelings of happiness, a study has found.” Moving your facial muscles to form a smile generates positive emotions and can actually trick your mind into feeling happier, according to research from the University of South Australia.

“A fake-it-till-you-make-it approach could have more credit than we expect,” says Dr Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, lead researcher of the study. “When your facial muscles say you’re happy, you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way.” 

Gemma Harris, staff writer for gut health and nutrition, points out that increased happiness is also linked to better gut health.  

“A positive mood increases serotonin (the happiness hormone) levels and around 95% of serotonin is produced within the gut. Serotonin plays an important role in communication between the gut and the brain (the gut-brain connection) and maintaining regular bowel movements. 

“What’s more, happiness can reduce stress. I know all too well that there are strong links between stress and IBS, as well as other digestive conditions. Often when I’m feeling anxious, I’ll experience a flare-up. So, knowing that doing things to raise my mood – such as smiling or exercises for gut health – can result in a calmer gut, is definitely something to smile about.” 

Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her


Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky is passionate about Kettlebell training, and runs a regular kettlebell club in the local community. Prior to this, she worked as a Fitness manager in a local gym. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain.

Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

Away from work, Becky unsurprisingly enjoys exercise, with a focus on lifting weights, kettlebells, and Olympic rings. She loves watching theatre, swimming, and reading a good book. She has three teenage children and enjoys spending time with them, preferably on a Cornish beach.

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