Let’s smile wholeheartedly!

This writing is inspired by the talk on smiling by Dr Gooi Chien Hoong at the Metta Convention 2018.

Smiling is the universal indicator of joy. “Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful”, this is a wonderful saying from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Image Source: Brainy Quote

Smiling and positive emotions

Smile and laughter are facial expressions of positive emotions. Besides happiness, smiling is also associated with other positive emotions include excitement, relief, wonder, bliss, a sense of pride in achievement, and many more  [1]. Interestingly, it is not only that positive emotions can trigger the facial expression of a smile, research has shown that intentionally posing a smile can also lead to positive emotions. This is because our brain is “hardwired” to perceive the surrounding more positively when we smile, hence “when you smile, the world smiles at you” [2]. In the face of adversity, putting on a genuine smile in the face will automatically make you feel better, have better control over your own emotions, as well as allow you to leverage on social resources to cope with hardship in the longer term [3].

When you smile, the whole world smile with you.

Smiling is contagious

Smiling is also contagious when we see others smile, we tend to smile back. Human has the tendency to unconsciously mimic the facial expression of others in order to recognise the emotion of others [4]. Hence, we often smile and laugh together, and this makes our surrounding environment becoming happier and light-hearted. Moreover, smiling can also make one and others happier even more productive at work. This is because smiling can make one better deal with stress [5], build better trust with others [6], and allow one to see the bigger picture [7].

A contagious smile – who could resist? [Image source: Flickr]

Smiling makes you look thinner, younger and live longer

Forget about anti-aging pills or weight loss program, smiling is the best way to look younger and thinner, and it is free. In a study conducted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), 38 college students were told to judge from pictures with different emotional expressions whether the person in the picture looked younger or older. The study found that those who had happy smiles on their faces as looking younger than their age and sad faces were often categorized as looking older [8].  In another UMKC study, 44 participants were asked to quickly make bodyweight judgement on randomly selected photos. It was found that a sad face was more likely to be judged as overweight [9]. So, sadness makes one feels heavy and one feels lighter when happy.

A beautiful smile can defy aging. [Image source: Pixabay]
In another study, researchers looked at historical pictures of baseball players and determined the width of the smile on the players’ face, they then correlated the smile with the length of the players’ life. The study found that smile intensity was associated with longevity of the players [10]. Therefore, the wider one’s smile is the higher the chance of one living longer.

Smile and neuroscience

When one smiles, the brain releases feel-good neurotransmitters including dopamine, endorphins and serotonin [11]. These are chemicals released by the nerve cells to send signals throughout the body. One of the main functions of dopamine is on pleasurable reward – it is a stimulate for one to feel pleasurable and rewards one to continue with the pleasurable activity. Endorphins are the natural morphine produced by the body, they act as a painkillers by reducing the perception of pain and trigger positive feeling in the body. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer, it helps to reduce stress, depressive mood, and anxiety while increasing the feeling of happiness.  Hence, when you smile, you instantly feel less stress, more satisfying, and forget about your pain.

When you smile, you instantly feel less stress, more satisfying, and forget about your pain. [Image source: Flickr]

Be genuine

Be genuine when you smile. A genuine smile is one that comes from the heart and radiant. A genuine smile is called “Duchenne smile”. It was named after the French neurologist who first differentiated the facial muscles movement of a “genuine” smile and a “fake” smile. According to Guillaume Duchenne, a “genuine” smile is one that involves not only the muscle of the mouth but also the eyes [12]. People can easily detect a smile to be either genuine or fake.

a “genuine” smile is one that involves not only the muscle of the mouth but also the eyes

In a meta-analysis of 22 studies on the perception of Duchenne versus non-Duchenne smiles [13], researchers found that people producing Duchenne smiles are rated more positively in terms of authentic, genuine, real, attractive, and trustworthy than people producing non-Duchenne smiles. In fact, it was found in one study that women who posted with a Duchenne smile in their high school yearbook predicted positive outcomes in marriage and well-being up to 30 years later [12]. So, smile genuinely and you will have a better marriage!

The is no reason not to smile, always!

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