Monday, December 9, 2013


by Carol A.

Are you aware that when we ask people to smile for the camera we are actually creating joy?

In the 1800's Charles Darwin proposed the Facial Feedback Response Theory - that happiness does not make us smile, as much as smiling makes us happy. He maintained that even mimicking a smile actually makes you feel better. Recent research has proven him correct - smiling actually stimulates the brain's reward mechanism!
One study from the 1950s, evaluated the smiles in high school yearbook photos and found that the biggest smiles were the best predictors,over a 30 year period, of well-being and success. A similar study around the same time used baseball cards to predict longevity. The players who were not smiling lived an average of 72.9 years, small smilers lived 75 years, and those who were beaming lived 79.9 years. 

Here's how it plays out. There are two muscle sets involved in smiling. The zygomaticus major moves the corners of your mouth. That's the easy one. Whether you are using your social skills or your emotional ones, you can make those corners rise. But the secret to a genuine smile lies in your obicularis occule muscle group - you guessed it - your eye sockets. Those beautiful "crows feet" really do reflect your joy.

But there's more to it than that. MRI's demonstrate that a cooler brain produces the hormones that create good emotions while a warmer brain creates negative emotions. The hypothalamus regulates our emotions, but it also happens to control our body temperature. (Think about that - shivers can result from being freezing or from fear; sweating can come from excitement but also from anxiety.) Our carotid artery travels through the cavernous sinus, which also happens to contain the facial veins. When you smile, the facial muscles contract, constricting the facial veins. The reduced blood flow is cooler, which in turn cools the brain on arrival. A smile reduces blood pressure, generates the release of endorphins and the reduction of stress hormones. A smile produces the same brain activity as :
       a good night's sleep
       2600 chocolate bars
       $25,000.00 in cash

And science also shows that it is hard to frown when looking at a smile. Involuntarily, we judge the genuineness of a person's smile by reflecting it. When subjects were asked to judge people's smiles while clamping down on a pencil (to prevent the facial muscles from imitating the smile) the accuracy of the judgement deteriorated measurably and significantly. Yet when we are not biting on pencils, smiling really is contagious. Smiling begets smiling - a symbiotic relationship that generates warmth and good feelings in each of us. In addition, you are perceived differently when you smile. People see you as more reliable, attractive, relaxed and sincere.

           More than 1/3 of us smile 20 times a day
           14% of us smile 5 times a day
           Babies smile in the womb
           Children smile on average 400 times a day

Here are some smiles for you to peruse while you listen to this!

In this holiday season and always 
spread the joy with your beautiful smile!

(Our Monthly Focus for December is "Joy."  Please give us the chance to reflect your favorite smiles by posting them on our Flickr, Facebook, Instagram and Focus on Phoneography sites)

(*This post blatantly borrows from the following sources:
Ron Gutman on NPR radio Hour's TED Talk; Leo Widrich - "Buffer," a business blog; Daniel Goleman - Science section New York Times 7/18/89; Ron Riggio + Sarah Stevenson, Psychology Today 6/25/12; Journal Neuropsychologia; Huffington post 8/1/12)


Linda said...

So interesting! I think crows feet should be a prized possession! Worn proudly by the happiest of people! Your post makes me smile!

Cathy H. said...

Fascinating information! One of my family traits is a very stern looking face when we are not smiling, we actually look mad. So I try to smile a lot and receive many smiles in return. Now, I know what a good thing that is!

Jeanne said...

looks to me as if we adults need to practice being a child more often! Great post!

terriporter said...

It's amazing how just the simple act of smiling can make us happy! This time of year, it seems a lot more people are smiling at each other and it would be nice if it could go on all year. I loved seeing a couple of smiling faces in your photo above from our Chicago trip! Great post!

Dotti said...

Wonderful post! And I'm SMILING!! Like Terri, I was awash with smiles looking at the ones from Chicago. Remembering that trip always makes me smile. But so does Christmas. Terri's right ... we need to SMILE 365 days a year.

Kim Stevens said...

I'm smiling from ear to ear....I hope there isn't a test later, haha, I don't think I will remember all of this. But I so enjoyed all the interesting information for sure. I'll never look at my crows feet in a negative way again, and THAT right there makes me smile ----> :)

And I so agree with Jeanne about practicing the child more often.

heyjudephotography said...

Love this Carol, and yes, I'm smiling too. I try to smile a lot since when I don't smile my face looks way too serious (mad, sad, grouchy) Working in a pre-school allows me to see pure joy every single day - kids really do know how to do it right! I think we need to follow their lead!

CarolHart said...

This post makes me smile!

kelly said...

you know what a science nerd i am so this is brilliant. i love it. makes me smile reading it and makes me want to make others smile so they can share in it too. wonderful post carol! xoxo

Carol said...

Thanks guys! Keep smiling!

Sarah Huizenga said...

That was so interesting. I vow to smile more this holiday season.

Katie said...

oh, i soooo love this! when my kids were small and were having a grumpy day, i used to dare them not to smile or chuckle or giggle or belly laugh or guffaw . . . you get the picture. they could never not smile and we'd all wind up laughing our heads off. i still dare them to this day and they're 14 and (almost) 20 years old. ALSO----laughing on a daily basis can add 10 years to your life span. my son and i figure that we'll live to be 130 years old at the rate we're going right now, maybe longer. AND . . . i love my laugh wrinkles. ; )

leigh said...

Your post has left me smiling Carol!

susan said...

carol, carol, carol…THIS is just the post i so needed today! after being sick for the past 10 days…flu bug…sinus infection…and having yet another dose of antibiotics called in today…well…i found 'joy' HERE! thank you. i smiled throughout this entire post! xoxo

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