The power of the smile is an inescapable game changer in many ways. It is said that it is far easier to smile than to frown. Indeed the notion is that it takes 3 times the effort to frown, rather than show that wonderful smile of yours. The story is that we use about 47 muscles to make our faces frown, but only about 17 to smile. So why not smile. Well, others disagree. They argue that it is the opposite. They reason that the smile is a much more expressive use of the face and that it takes more muscles to cause the face to radiate with a smiling expression. So what is the facts and why might it be a good idea for us to smile?
Well the answer is much more complicated than you would think. For starters there are 43 muscles in our face and most are controlled by what is called the facial nerve. The fancy name is the seventh cranial nerve. The nerve has quite a travel path as it comes out of the cerebral cortex and makes its grand entrance in the area of your skull around where your ears are. It radiates like a branch of a tree into five distinct areas which relate to different areas of the face. This is what triggers the muscles that allow you to contort the face in all kinds of ways. Through our expressions…..and there are hundreds of them…we provide clues to others about a great many things such as our moods, long term and short term feelings, our health, truthfulness, devotion, vulnerabilities, etc.
World wide, the smile is considered a friendly gesture, though it is possible in some remote place of our globe the smile could be viewed as a threat. But let us not focus on rare exceptions. Frowns, on the other hand, are universally accepted as an expression exhibiting sadness or disapproval. One expression is positive in its content, the other is negative in its meaning. The receiver of these two different facial expressions, smiles and frowns, are also influenced by the visual cue and momentarily or perhaps longer will feel positive or negative. Such is the power of expressions.
There is no certainty as to how many muscles it takes to smile or frown as it is very different for each person. One person’s smile can be another’s smirk. Also, not everyone is blessed with the same number of facial expressions or facial muscles. But we do know the minimum number of muscles needed to smile and frown. Studies reveal that it takes at least 10 muscles to smile and 6 muscles to frown. So for those rooting for the notion that smiles are much more active physical expressive states than frowns, at least muscle wise, you would be on the winning side. And we would suggest you keep on smiling because these same studies suggest smiles are conducive to good health. And you guessed right….frowns do you no good on the health front!