Beauty & Health

The Science Behind Your Smile

Our smile is like our set of fingerprints, they are unique. While everyone has the natural ability to smile, no two smiles are alike. The way we smile is part of our identity, who we are. A smile is powerful enough to show our emotions and how we feel. Smiling is the universal sign of being happy, a facial expression everyone can understand.

Smiling starts to take place through neuronal signals which travel to the brainstem from the cortex of your brain. Our brainstem is the oldest part of our brain. From this point, the neuronal signal is carried by the cranial muscle towards the muscles our face uses to shape and form a smile. This is only the beginning of the smiling process.

Once the muscles which shape our smiles begin to contract, our brain receives positive feedback which produces the feeling of joy we then experience. In other words, our brain produces the same happiness when we smile as it would while we are exercising. To sum up the process, because it feels good, our brain tells us to smile. In return, our smile tells our brain that smiling feels good.

Two potential muscles are activated when we smile. The first being the zygomaticus major, which has control over the corners of our mouths. The orbicularis occuli is the second muscle, which encircles the eye socket, also showing sincerity in our smile. The act of faking or forcing a smile we don’t genuinely feel will only exercise the zygomaticus major.

Our brain can be changed by our smile through the powerful loop of feedback we have already discussed. Our brain also has the ability of keeping track of our smiles, kind of like it is taking notes. Your brain is able to differentiate your emotional state, according to how often you have been smiling.

Through smiling, we have the ability to reduce stress felt by both our bodies and our mind. Recent studies show that smiling produces the same effects as getting good sleep verses tossing and turning throughout the night. By smiling, we also are generating more powerful emotions within ourselves. This may play a major role in the fact that we are happier around small children, they are known to smile more than the average adult. Small children smile on an average of 400 times a day. The average adult will only do so around 20 times a day while individuals considered as happy people smile between 40-50 times each day. The latest studies also show that through a smile, we are decreasing stress induced hormones that produce a negative effect on both our physical and mental health.

A famous yearbook study was completed, which tracked the lives of the best smiling women in a particular yearbook compared to the rest of the women. The ladies who were known for smiling the most experienced fewer setbacks in life, had happier and longer lasting marriages, and lived healthier lives. A similar study was completed by using baseball cards. The study revealed the players with a larger, more sincere smile outlived those without by an average of 7 years.

People can be taught, and often times re-taught how to smile. Over a period of time, most people forget how it feels to genuinely smile by becoming too comfortable adopting a fake or “social” smile. This habit can be broken with small steps such as becoming more comfortable with our smile, practicing smiling in front of a mirror, and thinking back to a happy time or place before smiling.

I am not sure if we could ever come up with a list or article containing all of the benefits of smiling and the effect it has on our health. It has been proven that the act of smiling not only produces a healthy effect on our mood and the way we feel, it also delivers a boost to our immune system. It also contributes to the relaxation of other parts of our body. Our face will also appear healthier. This happens because we exercise up to 53 facial muscles every time we genuinely smile. According to a study conducted by Orbit Complete, 69 percent of people find women more attractive with a healthier smile than by wearing makeup.

Because a smile can be recognized up to 300 feet away, smiling is recognized more than any other facial expression we give. Scientists have also proven that although there are many muscles involved with smiling, it actually is more difficult and takes more effort to frown. My personal favorite fact about smiling is that they are contagious. This isn’t just an annoying catch phrase either. A Swedish study revealed that people have a more difficult time frowning or presenting themselves being bored or bothered when they were surrounded by other people who had a smile on their face.

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