Did you know that your face has 15 muscles that work together to make a smile? Everyone has heard variations of the saying, almost always contrasting this with the number of muscles to make a frown.. I say variation because the exact numbers change depending on who is presenting the saying. The Washington Post on December 5, 1982 had it as 13 muscles to smile and 33 to frown. The New York Times on April 19, 1987 had it as 10 muscles to smile and 100 to frown. The earliest reference to this saying is from a 1931 book titled Strange as it Seems that has the numbers at 13 muscles to create a smile but 50 to make a frown.
The reason for the variation is that no one really knows how many muscles it takes to smile because they disagree on what a smile is. For example, do you count only the muscles needed to lift the corners of the mouth, or do you also count those around the eyes that crinkle during big smiles? And while these and other questions may make determining the exact number of muscles that work together to create a smile impossible for medical science to ever determine, the answer really does not matter. It does not matter because everyone recognizes a smile when seeing it. It does not matter because what is important, and the point of all these variant sayings, is that it is much easier for us to be cheerful than to be gloomy.
It is not only easier physically, but also makes our lives easier. A 2002 study from Sweden confirmed the truth of these sayings when it found that people responded in kind to the expression on your face. When others see a frown, they find it easier to frown in turn. When they see a smile, they find it easier to smile. Smiles are socially contagious.
Further, research has also shown that we tend to become what we do. If we smile, we tend to become happier. If we frown then we tend to be grumpier. So, for both the benefit of ourselves and those around us, and because it is less physically demanding, being able to smile is important.
So, for a better and longer lasting smile, engage in exercises which build up your smile muscles. Since these exercises involve the face, a mirror is recommended.
One exercise is puckering your top lip out and trying to touch your nose with it three times for five seconds each time. Another exercise, similar to the first, would be again puckering the top lip and placing a pencil on it and holding the pencil in place for five seconds.
A puckerless exercise would be keeping your lips together and then stretching your lips as wide as you can while making sure that the ends curve up. Five seconds is again the magic hold number and then relaxing and repeating two more times.
For those important cheek muscles try letting your lips relax from all of the puckering they had been doing and then squeezing your cheeks in order to squish your lips. Hold for five seconds, then relax and repeat two more times.
Of course, more than muscles are involved in smiling; teeth are an important part of a smile too. So, in addition to working on your smiling muscles, pay some attention to your teeth. That is what family and cosmetic dentistry is about and professionals such as Dr. Kvitko, Metnes & Associates, Cosmetic Dentistry: 21st Century Dental, Dallas Laser Dentistry, and Schindler Dentistry can not only give you something to smile about, but make your smile work for you.