The Act of Smiling

caju-gomes-500579-unsplashYou might have heard the phrase that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. The amount of muscles that it takes is up for debate (some places say it takes 13 to smile and 33 to frown, some say 22 to smile and 37 to frown) and it’s not really a fact – it hasn’t even been proven to be true – but the mentality remains: it’s better to smile than it is to frown, and takes less effort.

Happiness itself isn’t a choice; mental illness can make it difficult to feel positive and happy, but just the act of smiling can make a difference. Just like deep breathing or going for a walk, this action sends messages to your brain to help lift up your mood. Laughing also has the same effect, but sometimes that can feel like too much effort at times (after all, forcing laughter can feel so awkward). Choosing to smile and making yourself lift the corners of your mouth upwards activates the release of hormones like dopamine and endorphins, which can make you feel better and combat stress.

emoticon-2120024_1920Then of course, there’s the common belief that smiling is also contagious. This goes both ways: by smiling, you might inspire someone around you, whether you know them or not, to feel a little happier and smile themselves, or you can surround yourself with people who have a smiley disposition and feel the effects of being around that.

It might seem silly to try smiling at nothing, but it can be a boost of energy and positivity by using just a few muscles (13, or 22, or whatever number it is depending on who you ask).


Have you ever tried smiling without any reason? What do you think of the idea? What makes you smile?

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Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: https://sova.pitt.edu/i-need-help-now We look forward to talking to you!

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