Posted on 08 September 2011.
The Power of A Smile
According to a 2010 Wayne State University research project that focused on examining the 1952 baseball cards photos of Major League players, it was discovered that the span of a player’s smile directly correlated to his life span. Players who didn’t smile for the camera lived only 72.9 years while those who did sport a large smile lived to an average of 79.9 years
A smile is much more revealing than it seems. A universal means of communication, the act of smiling is even more of a reward mechanism than even chocolate can provide. In fact, a recent British survey conducted in Great Britain discovered that one smile
can provide the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 chocolate bars!
Smiling also makes you healthier, which cannot be said about chocolate. Some documented therapeutic effects include: reduced stress hormone levels (cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine), increased mood enhancing hormones like endorphins and lowered blood pressure.
Smiling is not just a universal means of communicating, it’s also a frequent one. More than 30% of us smile more than 20 times a day and less than 14% of us smile less than 5 times a day. In fact, those with the greatest superpowers are actually children, who smile as many as 400 times per day!
In research performed at the University of Clermont-Ferrand in France, subjects were asked to interpret real vs. fake smiles, while holding a pencil in their mouths to repress the muscles that help us smile. Without the pencils in their mouths, subjects were excellent judges, but with the pencils (when they could not mimic the smiles they saw), their judgment was impaired.
These findings would not have surprised Charles Darwin, who in addition to theorizing on evolution in The Origin of the Species, also developed the Facial Feedback Response Theory, which suggests that the act of smiling actually makes us feel better (rather than smiling being merely a result of feeling good).
This theory is supported by various recent studies, including research out of Echnische Universität in Munich Germany. In a 2009 study, scientists there used fMRI (Functional MRI) imaging to measure brain activity in regions of emotional processing in the brain before and after injecting Botox to suppress smiling muscles. The findings showed that facial feedback (such as imitating a smile) actually modifies the neural processing of emotional content in the brain, and concluded that our brain’s circuitry of emotion and happiness is activated when we smile!
If that’s not enough, smiling also makes us look good in the eyes of others. A recent Penn State University study confirmed that when we smile we not only appear more likeable and courteous, but we’re actually perceived to be more competent.for us.
Surprisingly, we’re actually born smiling. 3-D ultrasound technology now shows that developing babies appear to smile even in the womb. After they’re born, babies continue to smile (initially mostly in their sleep) and even blind babies smile in response to the sound of the human voice.
A smile is also one of the most basic, biologically uniform expressions of all humans. Paul Ekman (the world’s leading expert on facial expressions) discovered that smiles are cross-cultural and have the same meaning in different societies. In studies he conducted i
Papua New Guinea, Ekman found that members of the Fore tribe (who were completely disconnected from Western culture and were also known for their unusual cannibalism rituals) attributed smiles to descriptions of situations in the same way you and I would.
Have you ever wondered why being around children who smile frequently makes you smile more often? Two studies from 2002 and 2011 at Uppsala University in Sweden confirmed that other people’s smiles actually suppress the control we usually have over our facial muscles, compelling us to smile. They also showed that it’s very difficult to frown when looking at someone who smiles.
Why? Because smiling is evolutionarily contagious and we have a subconscious innate drive to smile when we see one. This occurs even among strangers when we have no intention to connect or affiliate with the other person. Mimicking a smile and experiencing it physically helps us interpret how genuine a smile is, so that we can understand the real emotional state of the smiler.
So now we know that:
* When you smile, you look good and feel good.
* When others see you smile, they smile too.
* When others smile, they look good and feel good, too.
Perhaps this is why Mother Teresa said: “I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.” What’s the catch? Only that the smile you give has to be big, and genuine!
In my fascinating journey to uncover more about smiling, I discovered something far greater than just a way to get through a challenging run – I found a simple and surprisingly powerful way to significantly improve my own life and the lives of others.
So now, whenever you want to look great and competent, improve your marriage, or reduce your stress…or whenever you want to feel as good as when you’ve enjoyed a stack of high quality chocolate without incurring the caloric cost, or as if you randomly found 25 grand in the pocket of a jacket you hadn’t worn for ages…or when you want to tap into a superpower and help yourself and others live longer, healthier happier lives…SMILE