Most people think that a smile is just a smile, but it is actually the case that there are a couple of different types of smiles out there – not just in appearance, but also in the scientific realm. One such type of smile is called the Duchenne smile, which involves the entire face, and it is one of the most authentic and powerful types of smiles around. The other type of smile is more of a superficial smile, sometimes called a polite or even “fake” smile (though it is not actually fake), that only involves curling up the sides of the mouth. Both types of smiles can produce feel-good and happy chemicals to be spread throughout the body and activate areas of the brain responsible for joy, but the Duchenne smile is much more impactful in terms of the benefits we can get from smiling.
The Duchenne smile is named after Guillaume Duchenne, a French anatomist from the 1800’s that did a lot of research in the area of facial muscles and how they map to the human body. This type of smile occurs when the zygomaticus major muscles turn the corners of the mouth upwards, and the orbicularis oculi facial muscles in your cheeks cause the corners of your eyes to scrunch up. When these two muscles work at the same time, not only does your mouth form a radiant smile, but your eyes get smaller, your crow’s feet crinkle, and your entire face lights up. You can probably think of a time when you saw someone smile in this way, and maybe thought “Wow, they have a great and infectious smile!” You may have even had your own spirits lifted when you observed someone smiling like this. It is truly a dazzling and delightful expression to behold and does a phenomenal job of portraying love and joy to all that are blessed with its sight.
There are four aspects of Duchenne smiles that make them important and effective to one’s well-being, as well as those around them. These are as follows:
- When you smile, you can give your mood a positive boost due to the happy chemicals produced by the brain when one smiles. The more facial muscles involved in the smile, the more chemicals produced, so this makes the Duchenne smile more powerful than a superficial or polite smile.
- It has been shown that people perceive the Duchenne smile to be the most genuine and inviting type of smile. Hence, smiling in this manner can help us to connect to others and form quick bonds. Smiling superficially still projects a friendly demeanor, but psychologically speaking it can also project a message of detachment from the recipient.
- Duchenne smiles can actually help us to counteract and rewire our stress response to a nerve-wracking event or occurrence. There have even been scientific studies proving that when participants were made to produce Duchenne smiles when participating in stress-producing tasks, their heart rates were slower, and their general feelings of calmness were better than those who produced other types of smiles or none at all.
- When we smile so big that it reaches our eyes, as is the case with a Duchenne smile, social studies have shown that people regard us as honest and heartfelt. This is good in all forms of social settings, such as casual, professional, and everything in between, for creating solid and meaningful relationships and connections.
Some more good news is that in the same way that the brain does not know the difference between real and fake laughter, it is possible to “fake” a Duchenne smile to reap its physical, mental, and social benefits. You can also train yourself to involve the eyes when you smile, and the more often you smile in this way, the more that this will become your natural way of smiling.
On top of all that good news is some more good news! When we laugh, like we do in laughter yoga, the Duchenne smile naturally comes out, because laughter yoga involves smiling with the whole face. Our mouths widen and curl up when we laugh, our eyes crinkle, and our cheeks contract and relax in a rhythmic motion. Basically, laughter yoga allows us to enjoy all of the benefits of a Duchenne smile and also trains us to smile in this way all the time.
Thus, when in doubt, just smile, and smile BIG to help improve a difficult or uncomfortable situation, make friends or connections, or to just give yourself a nice mood boost. Use laughter yoga to incorporate this type of smiling into your life and to keep it there as a permanent and ever-available pick me up! Laugh on, my friends, and SMILE!
To learn more, follow along with my blog and videos and experience all of the benefits of laughter yoga for yourself! Sending love and laughter to all of you!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor a medical professional. The information presented on this site is for educational purposes only. One should always consult with their doctor or medical professional before taking on any sort of new exercise program.