Have you ever thought about how strange smiling is? It’s an expression that can be used to display pleasure, happiness and amusement, but we can also smile when we are anxious, which may turn a smile into a grimace!

Why we smile

When we smile we convey to people how we are feeling and show others that we are friendly and approachable. By smiling, our ancestors could visibly demonstrate that they posed no threat to strangers and this could prevent them from being attacked. I imagine many of us today will also search out the friendliest face when we need to ask for assistance in public places or restaurants and shops.

A natural skill

At what age do babies learn to smile? There is a lot of disagreement about whether we learn to smile or whether we are born with this ability. The traditional view was that babies learnt to smile at about five to seven weeks of age, and any smiles before this were regarded as ‘wind’. However, with the development of modern technology, 4D scanners have been used to capture images of babies smiling in the womb at 28 weeks. The debate goes on whether these smiles are connected to feelings of pleasure or just simply reflexes. Although there is a strong argument that suggests that babies learn to smile by imitating the behaviour of the people around them, it does not quite explain how blind babies learn to do it.

Feeling good

Smiling makes us feel better, even if our smile is forced. Our brains react to whatever our body does and if our bodies do ‘happy’ things like smiling or laughing, our brain produces the ‘happy chemicals’ to match. This is one of the key concepts of Laughter Yoga, where participants laugh as an exercise. As Doctor Madan Kataria the creator of Laughter Yoga explains, we can ‘Fake it ’til we make it’.  When people smile at us we can’t help but react and mirror back the smile. Research has shown that muscles are activated in the muscles around our eyes and mouth when we see someone (or even of photo of someone) smiling. Even if the smile doesn’t appear visible to an observer, studies have shown that a reaction takes place. So if you want to improve your mood – put a smile on your face. It will not just make you feel better, but it will make people around you feel better too. 🙂

Lesley Lyle MAPP: Author, Writer, Positive Psychologist, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Associate lecturer, Laughter Facilitator Director Positive Psychology Learning. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook

Creating positive change through the application of science based processes