Zygomaticus major (2). Obicularis oculi (2). Levator labil superioris (2). Levator anguli oris (2). Risorious (2). Zygomaticus minor (2). These are the twelve muscles it takes to form a smile. Although I won’t list them, it only takes eleven muscles to frown. Estimates from studies vary, but a common conclusion is that the well-known adage that it takes more muscles to frown is false.
So why smile? Because it feels good and generally induces good feelings in others.
A 2012 article in Psychology Today includes this: “Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.
For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. The feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face. This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.”
A genuine smile is an indicator of a sense of well-being, and it tends to be catching. Imagine the difference in feeling between entering a room full of people either smiling and happy or frowning and grouchy. With which group would you rather spend your time?
Every now and then I find myself smiling (or even laughing) spontaneously when alone. It might have been produced by a song on the radio, seeing children on a playground, or savoring a memory. In any event, it is a very pleasant feeling which adds a positive, enlivening aspect to my day.
I’m not advocating a Pollyannaish smile-all-the-time-whether-you-feel-like-it-or-not. But I am encouraging engagement in activities that are likely to produce smiles. Watch a good comedy movie (maybe TV bloopers) or volunteer on a children’s ward or listen to music that thrills you . . . or, pick whatever works for you to experience the good feeling that automatically gets transferred to your face.
Mother Teresa once said that we shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do. Indeed!