When You’re Smiling…

pciture of baby smiling

When You’re Smiling…

During Reiki classes I always emphasize listening to your body.  Your body will let you know what it needs and will warn you if things are going amiss.  Well, I have to admit that I am human.  Last week I was a poor listener when my body started a conversation with my mind.

    I was on a real purge kick and found an old box of books that someone had given my husband.  They were in the corner of the crawl space and had not been looked at in years.  I knew that I should be careful lifting things that are too heavy as it has been a trigger for the jaw or even worse, the Trigeminal Neuralgia issues that I have experienced on occasion in the past.    However, my mind and dare I say ego, decided that I was quite capable of moving this box.  (I really wanted to dispose of these books before my husband found out.  I was afraid he would want to keep them!)  I had great motivation but I was not so good with the execution.  The next day my jaw started to give me grief.    When I tried to move my mouth I would get a muscle spasm in the jaw area.  It was very difficult to move my mouth.  Eating and heaven forbid, talking , was very difficult.   I missed being able to do both of these things but, there was something else that I missed even more.  Being able to smile!  

I started thinking about the age-old saying “It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.”   Was it true?  I wasn’t feeling too positive or “up” on those days and I began to wonder if there were health benefits to smiling.  Since I couldn’t work I decided to put all of this newly found spare time to good use.  I started Googling and reading up on smiles.    I hope you are as intrigued as I was, with what I discovered.  

To get confirmation about how many muscles it takes to smile or frown, I thought I would first hit Snopes.com and see if they had a definitive answer.  They always seem to have the answer to everything these days.  Well, it turns out the status is shown as “undetermined”.  They had a variety of quotes showing a wide range of numbers on how many muscles were involved.  Most favoured smile as needing fewer but there were some that indicated frowning took less.  The best I came up with from this site was a rather tongue in cheek quote from a 1995 internet post that read: 

“Scientists have told us that it takes 41 muscles to frown and 17 muscles to smile this leads to two conclusions:

a)      Scientists have WAY to much free time on their hands!

b)      Frowning uses more muscles, and therefore burns more calories.” 

Next I went off and checked out TheStraightDope.com.  This is another site I love to visit to get to the bottom of things.  These guys got an expert involved to help solve the riddle.   David H. Song, MD, FACS, plastic surgeon and assistant professor at the University of Chicago Hospitals was brought on board.  Turns out there are 53 muscles of the face.   (No wonder it is difficult to get a straight answer on this frown versus smile quandary.)   He categorized those that he felt were principal muscles used for smiling or frowning.  The Straight Dope group got other experts who agreed and thus the study began. 

  Final count:   12 principal muscles were used for smiling and only 11 for frowning.  

It looks to me like those who frown are conserving more energy.  But, there was a note saying that Dr. Song felt that because people tend to smile more often, those muscles are actually in better shape.  This means it takes less effort to smile than to frown.   Once again it appears that the final status is “undetermined.”  If it takes less effort but more muscles to smile than to frown, which one is really the easiest?  After all isn’t that the point that everyone tries to make when they say “it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.”  

I was tiring of the investigation into the actual numbers.  I was still not able to smile and although frowning didn’t hurt me physically I was not in my usual good spirit mood.      If I felt better when I was able to smile then I figured there must be some health benefits associated with this simple task. 

When we smile, neurotransmitters in our brain are activated.  Serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, the feel good neurotransmitters, get released into the body.  These help your body to relax.  It can also help to reduce heart rate and blood pressure.  

During the Reiki class we talk about how Reiki can help us to relax and how relaxation  is instrumental in the healing process.   For those who have not taken the class here is a brief explanation of how relaxation helps us heal.  When we relax, these neurotransmitters get released into the body.  When our muscles are tight it restricts the blood circulation in an area.  The relaxation of the muscles improves the blood flow to the area.  The blood carries oxygen and nutrients which are now able to move more freely through the body increasing the absorption of these vital elements which strengthens our immune system and helps to balance our hormones.  Our body’s begin to detoxify, further enhancing the healing process.   A smile can help influence your healing process!  Reiki and smiling,  Two easy things we can do for ourselves to help us heal. 

People respond like for like.  Studies show that if we are exposed to pictures of people smiling we instinctively smile ourselves.  Babies are born with the innate ability to smile.  Next time you see a baby smile notice what happens to you.  I bet you are unable to keep from smiling yourself.  Smiling produces more positive attitudes.  Here is little test you can use to test this theory. 

  • Frown and try to think of a negative thought. 
  • Continue to frown and try to think of a positive thought.

Most people find it difficult to maintain the frown when thinking positively. 

Now repeat that process but in reverse. 

  • Smile and think of a positive thought.   
  • Continue to smile and think of a negative thought. 

 Most people find that it is much more difficult to think negatively when smiling than it is to think positively when you are smiling.  Smiles instinctively start to droop, even to the point of taking on the shape of the frown, when you think negative thoughts.  Similarly when we think of something positive while frowning,  instinctively the corners of the mouth begin to raise in the shape of the smile.   Smiles bring positive thoughts which lead to more positive attitudes.  

If you aren’t convinced yet about the benefits of smiling, this other little ditty may be the deciding factor.  Studies have shown that people are more attracted to someone who is smiling.  It improves your appearance.  Better yet, the muscles used to smile lift your face which makes you appear younger! 

 Who really cares how many muscles it takes to frown or to smile?  We hold the fountain of youth in our smiles.   Our health and attitude improves when we smile and it helps us look younger. What more can we ask for?

 If you are not smiling yet I am sure you will after you watch the photos and listen to Micheal Buble singing

  When You’re Smiling

Take care and KEEP SMILING! 





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