Seven reasons to smile

Whether you feel like smiling or not, forcing yourself to grin can change your day, and even your life, writes Anna Warwick.
  1. Smiling is natural
    Charles Darwin proposed in his 1872 book,The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals, that facial expressions are biologically based and universal among humans.
Indeed, smiling is innate — in a recent Technology Entertainment and Design talk, CEO of HealthTap, Ron Gutman explained that unborn babies smile in the womb, newborn babies smile in their sleep and blind babies smile when they hear human voices.
Gutman says children smile as many as 400 times per day and even the members of the isolated Fore tribe in Papua New Guinea smile.
  1. Smiles tell it all
    We all know the smirk, the fake smile, cheeky grin. In 2010, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley identified at least six types of instinctive smiles:
  • The Duchenne smile (named after 19th-century French scientist Duchenne de Boulogne), a genuine grin, that raises both corners of the mouth and the cheeks to form 'crow's feet' at the eyes' outer edges.
  • The flirty, coy smile with head turned slightly away.
  • The amused smile after a good joke, with the head thrown back.
  • The love smile, with a tilted head and softened eyes.
  • The interested smile, with raised eyebrows and a slight grin.
  • The embarrassed smile, with the eyes cast downward.
  1. Smiling makes you happy
    In 1872, Charles Darwin proposed that, "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it" i.e. to smile on the outside will make you happy on the inside. This is the Facial Feedback Hypothesis.
Darwin was right. Models and rock stars may look cool with serious pouts, but they are missing out a natural rush of endorphins and the feel-good serotonin, which are released whenever you smile or laugh.
"British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate," Gutman says.
  1. Smiling makes others happy
    Surakka, V. and Hietanen, J. K. (1998) proved that the sight of a smile can induce a feeling of pleasure. Their research showed that even the sight of a smile in a photo can induce pleasurable feelings, if the smile seems genuine. Is it time to change your Facebook profile photo?
  1. Smiling is contagious
    A recent study at Uppsala University in Sweden found that it's very difficult to frown when looking at someone who smiles, because smiling is evolutionarily contagious, and it suppresses the control we usually have on our facial muscles.
Here is a test: Smile. Now try to maintain your smile and frown at the same time. Not easy, is it?
  1. Smiling makes you attractive
    In his famous 20th century book,How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie hailed the simple smile as the first key to making an impression and dealing successfully with people.
In the late 1990s, US supermarket Safeway instructed its store employees to smile and greet customers with direct eye contact. In 1998, 12 female employees filed grievances, due to unwanted solicitous attention from male customers.
  1. Smiling is good for your health
    According to Christopher Peterson PhD, University of Michigan, people who are optimistic (and so smile a lot) have much better health due to a more robust immune system. In older people, those who remain optimistic are 77% less likely to die from all causes than those who are pessimists.
In his TED talk, Gutman cites a Wayne State University research project that looked into pre-1950s baseball cards and found that players who didn't smile in their pictures lived an average of only 72.9 years, where players with beaming smiles lived an average of almost 80 years.
What are you waiting for? Turn that frown upside down.
Video: How happy are you?

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