© 2014 jen

The Science of Smiling: Why Smile?

I’ve never loved my smile. I sometimes feel like my face falls apart when I smile. You see, I have a small mouth and sometimes it appears that I have too much in the gum area, although I fixed this part if you want to do it you can try dental veneers. Plus I have double chins that pop out of nowhere and squinty little eyes when I smile.

It’s pretty common for me not to smile in photos. When I do, I tend to do a closed-mouth smile, while trying to keep my eyes open. Strangely, in photos I often think I look better with a scowl or a grimace. Fierce looks are kinda my thing. I can see that some people might assume I smile less than the average person.

1Collection of some of the photos from my Fit-tastic series, which I did last year. I was documenting my health and weight, and my general rule was that I wouldn’t apply makeup or do my hair before the photos unless I needed to for some reason other than taking photos on my blog. So some of these shots are rough, but I gotta say, I like ’em. It cracks me right up to see me scowling.

But the truth is I smile all the time when there isn’t a camera in my face. I’m a big smiler and a belly laughter and I’m not above a snort or two when I’m really laughing.

I think that as I age I have more authentic smiles, because I feel so much better than I ever used to and I’m generally less judgmental of myself. I regularly catch myself smiling at no one for no reason.  All this smiling had me wondering what all this authentic smiling is doing for me, so I thought I’d write about it today.

We know that smiling is a sign of happiness, and we know it’s something we can do to increase feelings of happiness, but what else is there to smiling?

Cheerup buttercupMe striking a fierce pose at age 5. Info for this graphic obtained here.

Why Smile?

1. Smiling is contagious – actually, all energy we bring to others is pretty contagious, but if you bring a smile it’s something you can share and light others up with.

2. Smiling relieves stress – a smile releases endorphins and serotonin, even if it’s a forced smile. It’s like your own natural anti-depressant and pain killer in one.

3. Smiling can shift your mood – if you’re having a bad day and you go hang out with that particularly funny friend, you’re not just distracting yourself, you’re actually changing your mood through smiling and laughter.

4. Smiling boosts your immune system – that’s right, when you’re smiling, not only does “the whole world smile with you, ” but it’s calming to the body, which makes you healthier and helps your immune system function better. Smiling actually lowers blood pressure, improves digestion and helps regulate blood sugar too.

5. Smiling is less effort – Has anyone ever said to you, “Turn that frown upside down”? Well, it turns out that frowning actually takes more effort and uses more facial muscles than smiling does.

6. Smiling makes you look younger – smiling actually causes the muscles in your face to lift, creating a more youthful appearance.

7. Smiling makes you more attractive – I’m going to trust the research here, because I’m skeptical, but apparently people think those who smile are cuter!

A research study conducted by Orbit Complete found that 69% of people find women more attractive when they smile than when they are wearing makeup.
8. The fun exercise – It takes between 5 and 53 muscles to produce a smile. A smile, or, better yet, a rousing laugh with friends, is like interval training for your face (haha!).
9. Three degrees of happiness – if you are happy and you hang out with a friend, that friend will feel more happy. This effect can be passed from your friend to his or her friend. Think about that: up to three degrees of separation is possible before the affects of one person’s smile wears off.
Damn, that makes me wanna smile!
Smiling is really a way that we share ourselves and become a little more vulnerable with others. With a loved one, a smile is an expression of love. With a stranger, a smile is a way of saying, “Hello, I’m not a threat to you.” And sometimes a smile is just plain fun or funny.
No matter the tiny village or the skyscraping city we come from, no matter what dialect we speak, we all smile in the same language.
OK, OK, so I guess I’ll just accept my mysterious double chins and gummy smiles as they are. Plus, there’s research that I’m actually cuter when I smile, right?
What are you wearing between your ears? Are you a smiler? Now, after this reminder of all of the benefits to yourself and others through smiling, will you be sharing your contagious smile more often? Let’s start an epidemic!