The Power of a Smile

CEO & Founder, Barbara Devine

Has anyone ever told you that you smile too much? I doubt it because on average children smile 400 times a day and the average adult smiles only 20 times per day. Why does it matter anyway? Let’s look at the background reasons on how and why you should consider smiling more often.

When we smile we are telling the world that all is good with us at this moment. We are communicating nonverbally that we are happy, approachable and non-threatening. When we are networking, applying for a job, promoting ourselves or just trying to connect with another human this is the best and fastest way to be perceived in a positive way. For some reason we think we won’t be taken seriously or we are weak if we smile but that’s so far from the truth.

There is a right way to smile and its called a Duchenne smile.

1) a true smile causes the cheeks to puff out and the area around the eyes to wrinkle
2) you have to hold the smile for at least three seconds

A true smile doesn’t have to be a huge toothy and aggressive grin but it must engage two muscle groups around the corners of our mouth and around the eye sockets. To mimic this action place a pencil between your lips and you will feel these muscles activate. As Mark Bowden (world-renowned body language expert) tells us “other people can detect a fake smile, either consciously or unconsciously.” If they detect a fake smile they will wonder why you’re faking it. So if you don’t want to smile then don’t just maintain a neutral face. That way others won’t detect or suspect that something is wrong.

The process of smiling is best explained by Leo Widrich “When you experience something positive neuronal signals travel to the cortex of the brain and then to the brainstem. From here the cranial muscle carries the signal towards the smiling muscles in your face. This signal causes the smiling muscles to contract and we feel good. There is a positive feedback loop that now goes back to the brain to reinforce our feelings of joy. The happiness loop has been initiated.

The best part of why I call it the power of a smile is because you can smile and send the happiness signals to your brain even if you haven’t experienced something joyful. The muscles contracting around the mouth will start the happiness loop and off you go. Your body will feel less stress due to the decrease in stress-induced hormones and the smile helps to ignite other positive emotions. That’s right we can fool our brain into thinking we are happy even if we aren’t. This is a little trick we can use to make ourselves feel better.

There is another benefit to smiling and that is the impact you have on others. Stop walking around with your head down and make eye contact with people around you. If you make eye contact smile at them and they will most likely smile back and you’ll both feel better. Like everything else it will take some conscious thought but after a while smiling will just become another wonderful habit.

Happy smiling!

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