Picture for a moment the late, great Nelson Mandela. In most pictures he’s wearing a smile, a warm, welcoming, genuine smile. Hold that thought.
When you smile, I mean really smile, there’s a bucket load of good stuff that happens in your brain, and in the brains of others who see you smile. These types of smiles have a name – the Duchenne smile, and you might just find yourself rethinking the Botox after you read what’s coming up!
A Duchenne smile is when your face really crinkles up, your mouth curves up and your eyes get involved, with those little muscles at the sides of your eyes joining in – yes, those muscles that give you crow’s feet. Fake smiles on the other hand are just a turn up of the corners of the mouth – no crinkly eyes, and no message to your own or anyone else’s brain that you’re happy. It’s also not physiologically possible to do the crow’s feet muscle crinkle voluntarily without smiling. (You just tried to didn’t you!)
Duchenne smiles are truly incredible. They’re free, anyone can do them at any time and they have an immediate positive impact, even if you’re not in the best mental space to start with. Because you see, your brain doesn’t know if you’re faking it ‘til you make it, or are in fact smiling because you’re already happy.
When you slap on one of these real smiles, your brain, which is basically sitting on idle, waiting on commands from ground control, gets a message that you’re happy and so it releases endorphins and serotonin, the get-happy hormone. The endorphin and serotonin hits in turn, then makes you feel really happy, and, as a side effect, also lowers your stress levels. And yes, like laughter smiles are contagious so go ahead and feel free to infect anyone and everyone you see!
- Penny Nesbitt