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Smile: It’s healthy!

🕑 3 minutes read
Posted June 25, 2018

We shall never know all the good a simple smile can do.

– Mother Teresa

Four fun facts that will make you smile:

  1. There are genuine smiles and fake smiles.  We’ve all smiled both ways. But while they may look similar, genuine smiles and fake smiles are controlled by different muscles and different areas of the brain.  

A fake smile – one performed at will – uses the zygomatic major muscle of the cheeks to pull the corner of the mouth outwards.  

A genuine smile, on the other hand, is generated unconsciously and automatically.  Both the zygomatic muscle of the cheeks and the orbicularis oculi muscle of the eyes are involved in a genuine smile causing the cheeks to be raised, the eyes to crease and eyebrows to dip slightly.  

You will remember that the orbicularis oculi are part of the Social Engagement System of the Polyvagal Theory and their neural network can be rehabilitated by using the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP).  

See if you can tell the difference between a fake smile and a real one here.

  1.  Genuine smiles are correlated with longer life.  Facial expressions are a barometer of happiness and, as such, researchers have studied the connection between smiles in photographs and longevity.  According to a 2009 study in which Major League Baseball player cards were analyzed, researchers found that those with broad authentic smiles lived an average of seven years longer than those with no smile.
  2. Smiling is so important that babies start practicing to smile in the womb.  

Even at 24 weeks’ gestation, babies in utero smile!  Researchers believe that making faces like curling their lips into a smile or grimacing as if in pain prepare the baby for learning how to communicate once out of the womb.  

  1. Smiling makes you feel better and is evolutionarily contagious.

In “The Origin of Species,” Darwin explained his Facial Feedback Response Theory.  It states that the act of smiling itself actually makes us feel better, rather than smiling being merely a result of feeling good.  When you smile, even a forced smile, the muscles of your face trigger the release of endorphins and can help lower your heart rate. These good feelings can even extend to others.  

According to research, as a way of understanding the perspective and feelings of another person, we simulate others’ facial expressions to create emotional responses in ourselves.  So when another person replicates your smile – consciously or unconsciously – they enhance their own feeling of happiness or contentment. A simple smile can go a long way!  

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

This TED talk by Ron Gutman summarizes research on smiling and will engage your orbicularis oculi!  

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