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The Science of Smiling

October 01, 2015

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Smiling is something we (hopefully) all do every day. Often, it's a reflex that we don't even control, like when you see a close friend coming towards you and you automatically smile at them. Other times, we smile out of general politeness, as a way to say hello or even sometimes as a response to something someone says to us. You might not have thought of it before, but there is a lot of science behind the human smile, and you're about to learn all about it!

What's Happening When You Smile? 

  • A smile is typically thought of as a lifting of the corners of the mouth, which is a result of flexing the muscles in that part of the face.
  • When you see something that makes you happy, like your dog or your best friend, a signal travels to your brain, after which a responding signal is sent to your facial muscles, producing a smile.
  • That's not the end of the story, though; once you actually smile, positive feedback is sent to your brain, stimulating positive feelings.
  • Basically, the more you smile the happier you'll likely feel. 

Don't hide your smile!Don't hide your smile!Courtesy of spring.org.uk

Duchenne Smile

  • Yes, there are different types of smiles.
  • The smile that is regarded as the most genuine, and therefore the most happiness-inducing, is called the Duchenne smile.
  • When we smile this way, we both lift the corners of our mouth and contract the muscles at the corners of our eyes.
  • The other type of smile is one that is most often considered a fake smile. When we do this, the corners of our eyes don't usually crinkle. 

Harry Styles sure knows how to smile! See how his eyes crinkle? Looks genuine to me!Harry Styles sure knows how to smile! See how his eyes crinkle? Looks genuine to me!Courtesy of lovethispic.com

Fake It 'til You Make It

  • People often say that faking positive emotion, like by smiling even when you're not feeling great, can actually make you feel better.
  • In fact, there is scientific evidence to back this up. As you now know, smiling itself triggers good feelings in the brain.
  • Although this is more effective when your smile is full and genuine, studies have shown that even a fake smile can bring up your happiness! 

You can't always make you fake smile look real, but it might make you feel better to try!You can't always make you fake smile look real, but it might make you feel better to try!Courtesy of community-sitcom.wikia.com

I totally get it; sometimes you just don't feel like smiling. Maybe you're having a bad day, or maybe you're going through a difficult patch in your life. You don't have to smile if you don't want to, but it's worth considering the fact that smiling more, even when it's not the most genuine smile ever, can make you feel better. Not feeling great today? Take this idea for a test drive; smile at your mom, at a friend, or even at your pet snake. You might find that once you start smiling, it can be hard to stop. 

Have Your Say

How often do you smile? Did you enjoy learning about the science behind smiling?  Comment below and share with the other Kidzworld users.