The truth and value of a simple smile
Published 10:04 am Saturday, August 20, 2022
By Ronnie Michel
You may have heard the adages, “A smile can brighten the darkest day,” and “The shortest distance between two people is a smile.” Or maybe you’ve repeated what the late comedienne Phyllis Diller said, “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”
Is there any truth to the value of a smile? According to science, there is. The facial expression that takes only 17 muscles, compared to the 43 muscles it takes to frown, has many health benefits.
A study conducted by University of Kansas psychologists divided 169 volunteers into three groups. The first group was instructed to hold chopsticks in their mouths while maintaining a neutral expression, the second group was told to form a normal smile, and the third group smiled a genuine Duchenne smile which involves the eyes (the kind you can detect even if person is wearing a mask).
The study’s participants were then put through tasks such as tracing a star with the non-dominant hand while looking at a mirror image and placing their hands in ice water. Their heart rates were monitored throughout the study. At the conclusions, smilers had lower heart rates than those who maintained a neutral expression, and those genuine Duchenne smilers had the lowest heart rates of all.
A Psychology Today article by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. summarized other benefits of smiling. Smiling releases dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin which helps to relax the body, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and even act as a natural pain reliever.
Another study reported that when you view someone smiling, the area of your brain which processes sensory rewards is activated, and you feel rewarded. Research also showed that smiling makes you appear more attractive to others and is contagious.
God has designed us in such a way that our smiles have benefits to us and others. In addition to what science has proved, Mother Teresa’s words should motivate even more happy expressions. “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”
Ronny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.