We never should have doubted you, Tyra. Turns out that the "smize" — a smile with your eyes — is actually a sign of genuine happiness, not just a modeling technique. New research reveals that smiling is not only a reflection of our emotions (obviously), but a catalyst for them — and it's all in the eyes. Remember that time your joke had the whole brunch table laughing? Next time, check out your friends' peepers. If the crow's feet are showing, their grin is an honest one. If not, chances are they're faking their enthusiasm. Bummer. Thanks to science, we can't hide behind a fake smile anymore.
Way back in the 1800s, a Frenchman named Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne de Boulogne conducted various experiments on facial expressions. Using electrical currents, he contracted his subject's facial muscles to express various emotions such as sadness, anger, and joy. It gets complicated after that, but after experiments involving both electricity and genuine jokes, the smize was born: The "Duchenne smile," as it's called today, revealed that the muscles around the eyes wrinkle when the subject is feeling genuine joy. The "true smile," he said, is "only brought into play by a true feeling." The mouth smiles and the eyes follow suit — that is, if the emotion is genuine enough.
Crinkling up those little muscles around the eyes actually leads to an elevated mood and even a longer life. This is a result of the connection between the act of smiling and the body's production of stress hormones. When the muscles around the mouth activate and the eyes begin to crinkle, fewer stress-induced hormones are produced, which in turn improves one's mood. A recent study inspired by Duchenne's work looked at photographs of smiling people and found that those with the biggest grins on their faces lived, on average, seven years longer than those smiling the least. Another study revealed that women who were smiling the most in photos from their school years had more-contented marriages, happier lives, and fewer crises down the road than their deadpan peers.
Some doctors have hypothesized that the inability to smile increases the likelihood of depression. This is not to say that a frowny face leads to a serious mental illness, but studies have shown the less we smile, the less positive we become. The more we interact, the more we smile, the happier we are. We go to the gym to exercise our muscles, so why not smile more to exercise our positive emotions? We can't fake a smile — an honest one, at least. So why bother? The truth is in the smize. Think about that the next time you reach for your anti-wrinkle serum. (The Atlantic)
Photo: Courtesy of Clinique