One of the cheesiest old adages we hear in popular culture is, “It takes 37 muscles to frown, but only 22 to smile”. This is usually said to someone who is rather glum, and while the science behind this phrase is somewhat questionable, the sentiment is clear – You Should Smile More! But why….?
When you see someone smiling at you from across the room, not only does that mean you may be making a new friend, but it also has some benefits for that person. Smiling is one of the most infectious and attractive expressions that human beings can make, and what’s more, smiling has a wide range of impressive powers that many people never consider!
But why do we have this unusual way of showing happiness, pleasure, or joy? Is this something unique to humans?
We don’t actually make a conscious choice to smile (unless we’re forcing it, of course). Smiling is actually a reflex programmed and imprinted on us after thousands of generations. Humans have extremely complex emotions, and natural reactions or expressions have developed over time, which is why we see certain reactions all around the world – regardless of culture.
We smile at all sorts of things, an amusing scene on television, a funny joke, an adorable video of a panda sneezing, or the touching scene of a father and son playing in a park. There are an infinite number of causes behind smiling, and every individual will be “amused” by different things as they go through life.
It’s said that as children, we smile more than 300 times a day, but this drops to fewer than 20 smiles per day by the time we reach adulthood. Many people may argue that this is simply a consequence of the seriousness of “growing up”, but you’ll be surprised to find that dropping your smile quota can be a bad idea.
The Smile Rush
Not only do we have very little control over when we smile, we also can’t control what happens inside our body when a smile crosses our lips. The act of smiling can trigger sensors in our brain to inform them that we are experiencing pleasure or joy, which causes a release of endorphins. In other words, smiling at something that makes you giggle will make you even happier!
The Social Side of Smiling
Smiling is much more than an expression of happiness – it is welcoming, inviting, and attractive to others. If you see someone scowling from across the table at a morning meeting, you’re much less likely to seek that person out later to compare notes.
Flashing a toothy grin can therefore help to develop your social presence in many different ways. If you try smiling at potential business partners, colleagues, teachers, coaches, and personal heroes, who knows what could happen?
Furthermore, smiling can take on many forms to increase our range of communication. A smirk means something very different than a wide toothy grin, whereas a tight-lipped smile that doesn’t show any teeth may mean something else entirely. There is a huge range of social emotions that we can share with others simply through out smiles!
Studies have also shown that smiling makes a person more memorable as well. So, not only will those people you just met at the party think you’re a friendly, likeable guy if you put your best smile forward, it will also be easier for them to remember you in the future!
Smiling and Human Health
It might be hard to believe that something like smiling can directly impact our health and wellness, but human methods of processing pleasure are quite complex and have a number of physiological effects.
For example, would you believe me if I told you that smiling can directly impact your immune system, stress levels, and even life expectancy? Although some of the research is debated in terms of smiling’s impact on our health, people who smile more have been shown to live 5-7 years longer, have higher HGH levels (which keeps the immune system strong), and lower levels of stress and anxiety (due to endorphin and neuropeptide release that smiling and pleasure stimulate).
As you can see, by making smiling a bigger part of your life, you can bring about some serious changes, both socially and physically!
Do you want to be more likeable, make friends more easily, feel less stressed, live longer, seem more attractive and trustworthy to others, and dozens of other wonderful benefits?
Of course you do! Who wouldn’t….just use those 22 muscles (or whatever number it really is), and put a smile on your face whenever you can.
- Humor and Stress: Laugh Your Way to Better Health – Medical Center (University of Virginia)
- Stress Relief From Laughter? It’s No Joke – Mayo Clinic
- Psychology Today
- Smile! It’s Good for Your Heart – Greater Good Science Center (University of California, Berkeley)
- The Surprising Effects Of Smiling On Stress, Health, And Behavioral Outcomes – Center for Positive Organizations