Most likely, the last thing you think about when you’re posing for your latest Facebook shot is the science behind your smile. But there’s a lot more to a smile than meets the eye. Here are 10 little-known facts that will have you beaming.
1. Smiling has body benefits.
Every time you frown, you’re unnecessarily exhausting 43 facial muscles, while smiling only uses 17 muscles. Some studies show that beaming can benefit your blood pressure levels. Add a laugh and you’ll also slim your middle -- the movement exercises your abs, diaphragm, shoulders and heart. Scientists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville found that laughing can stoke your calorie burn by up to 20 percent.
2. Grinning is human.
One thing that separates us from animals is our capacity to smile. We don’t learn how to smile from our surroundings; rather, it’s a natural mechanism that’s hardwired in us from birth. Studies have shown that newborn babies crack their first smile as early as two hours after delivery.
3. Women are more likely to smile.
Fact: The average woman smiles approximately 62 times a day. In that same day, a man only flashes his pearly whites a mere eight times. Interestingly enough, a Yale University study found that the difference declines when the two genders share the same occupation. Why? The researchers believe that it could be because every workplace has an unspoken “smiling standard” that’s followed by all employees.
4. There are different types of smiles.
Happiness isn’t the only thing we can express when we turn up the corners of our mouths. During his research at the University of California, San Francisco, scientist Paul Ekman discovered that people smile 19 different ways, depending on social situations and emotions, including fear, grief and hatred. All types fall under two larger categories: heartfelt and artificial. You can differentiate the two: Sincere smiles cause the corners of your eyes to scrunch up -- insincere ones don’t.
5. Beauty comes from a smile.
When asked to select more attractive counterparts, study participants at Scotland’s University of Aberdeen pointed to those people who were beaming. In another recent lab report, 69 percent of those asked said that women look younger and more attractive when they wear a smile rather than makeup.
6. Smiling leads to a longer life.
Research conducted at the University of Illinois has suggested that people who generally feel happy and smile more often have a longer life expectancy of nearly a decade. In another study that looked at baseball cards, Wayne State University scientists in Detroit concluded that those athletes who flashed their pearly whites in their pictures lived on average seven years longer than those who didn’t.
7. Healthy marriages thrive on smiles.
People who grin consistently are more likely to have healthy marriages, say researchers at DePauw University in Indiana. Some say it’s because smilers can more easily express their emotions, and others think that people who grin often attract happier people, allowing them to form stronger, more positive connections.
8. Smiling releases endorphins.
Research shows that the simple act of turning your mouth up, whether authentic or not, can help release endorphins, feel-good hormones. Serotonin, a natural stress-reducing chemical, also increases when you smile.
9. You can fight a cold with a grin.
Cut down on those sick days by plastering a big, cheesy smile on your face. Every time you flash your teeth, your body produces greater quantities of antibodies and T-cells (or white blood cells), which may give your immune system a huge power boost.
10. Smiling is contagious.
During an experiment conducted in Sweden, participants reported that they found it very difficult to frown when they saw other participants smiling. Many began to turn their mouths up without even realizing it. Start smiling and the whole world will smile with you.
How many times do you think you smile in a day? Tell us below and see how you compare to others …
Stella Katsipoutis is a writer based in New York City. Her work has appeared in such publications as Fitness, Bridal Guide and The Knot.
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