Random Stuff · Thoughts On

Fact or Fiction: Smiling Is Contagious

*whips out imaginary camera and yells “Say cheese!” * Nah, I’m just joking. But didn’t those few seconds of smiling make you feel good? I’m sure it did, ’cause there’s lot more to smiling than just fun or goofy pictures.

It is often said that a smile can brighten up any dark or dull room. Yes, smiles do come in different shapes, sizes and intentions: be it a genuine one, a sarcastic one, a devious smirk or a manic smile. However, many psychologists have conducted various experiments and surveys just to understand this feel good emotion; and thus arose the famous question “Is smiling contagious?”. Well, SS is here to explore the truth to this statement.

As soon as we hear the terms “smile” and “frown”, the very question of the number of facial muscles involved in doing so first pops into our mind. The answer to this question has been debated quite often, where a majority of people have claimed that frowning takes more muscle power than smiling. Before going into detail about the main purpose of this post, let’s debunk the myth about the total number of facial muscles involved.

Our face is made up of 43 muscles that are controlled by the facial nerve or the 7th cranial nerve. This nerve arises from the pons varolli of the brain, and it’s used to facilitate eye movement and to conduct impulses concerning smell and taste. The very branches of this nerve are responsible for stimulating muscles to contort and alter our face to give certain expressions, say a shocked or a disgusted expression (does Bell’s palsy sound familiar to anyone?). While it is often said that 10 or 17 muscles are involved in smiling while 6 or 43 muscles are used to frown, you’ll be surprised to know that it actually takes an average of 12 muscles to smile and 11 to frown. But this is not the end of the myth; since these expressions depend on our own effort. What I mean by this statement is: we humans have a tendency to smile more than we frown, which is why the muscles concerning a smile are in better shape than the muscles concerned with grumpiness. Bonus fact: smiling is a natural habit we’ve all acquired from birth!

Now that the facial muscles debate has been settled, let’s get into the main topic. It’s human nature to smile whenever someone flashes us one, or whenever we see one. But why do we mimic such expressions? Well, the psychologists have an interesting answer to this question. According to them, we tend to imitate or “try on” the emotions of others whenever we’re engaging with them. For example, if one of our friends tells us some good news while looking joyful, we unconsciously reciprocate by bearing a similar expression. By doing so, we may be able to understand and feel the emotions they’re expressing. From what we’ve understood by this statement, we can say that smiling is just another example of a natural reflex alongside blinking or sneezing. However, the same cannot be said for those with motor neuron/central nervous system based diseases, or those with autism; who struggle to reciprocate the expression on certain occasions. Psychologists also say that expressions help establish bonds and relationships with others, since a huge portion of communication and social dynamics is based on them. Hmm, guess those school seminars on body language and personal development did leave some useful tips.

The very reason why smiling puts us in a state of happiness is due to the brain associating it with a past memory that was positive, which then triggers those emotions by releasing endorphins: the feel good/happy hormone. Yes, even when you fake a smile without any good reason, your brain still associates it with a distant positive memory. Now, smiling itself has a lot of benefits: two of the most prominent ones being it transporting you to your happy place, and to help in understanding other’s emotions. Some of the other benefits of a smile include:

  1. Lowering your stress and BP levels, thereby putting you in a relaxed and a calm state.
  2. Boosting your immune system. I know, this fact came as quite a surprise to me as well. Interestingly enough, your immune system strengthens whenever you smile due to the action of neurotransmitters. You can now add it to the list of cold/flu prevention tips.
  3. Smiling creates a ripple effect, i.e., our smile not only benefits us but others as well by elevating the mood. Like I said before, it’s human nature for us to smile whenever we see one. Besides, you’ll also be perceived as a “likeable and courteous” person by others.
  4. It gives you a youthful appearance. According to an aging study, when a group of people were given pictures of people with happy, neutral and angry faces; most of them guessed that the people who bore the former expression were younger than their actual age than those who bore the latter expressions. So flash that smile of yours! You’ll only be embracing your youthful appearance.
  5. Last but not least. it acts as a pain reliever. Whenever we smile/laugh, our brain stimulates the release of endorphins; which act as the body’s natural painkiller. It’s a good thing to know that an emotion can benefit our health in a considerable amount of ways.

From these points, we can conclude that smiling is indeed contagious. Who knew that one simple emotion could bring about so many changes? If you need any reason to smile, just look at things on the Internet that brighten your mood or talk to someone who knows how to make you laugh. Otherwise, you could try to motivate yourself in different ways to start your day with a smile. The amount of choices are limitless! So, get out there and show that smile of yours, and see the world react to it.

Hope this post was helpful, and lemme know in the comments on what do you think about this issue. Also, can you believe that we made it through 2020? This should be added to our resume for future purposes XD. Anyways, that’s all for this week, and see you with a month end special post next Monday. Until then, fellow readers!

-Silver Stone

16 thoughts on “Fact or Fiction: Smiling Is Contagious

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