and they fished
all across the sea,
And down in the depths a mile.
They fished among all the fish in the sea,
For the fish with the deep sea smile.
from The Fish With a Deep Sea Smile
by Margaret Wise Brown
illustrated by Henry Fisher
e-edition Parragon Books Ltd., 2015
Human beings have universal emotions. We all feel sad, angry, frightened, happy, grouchy, pensive. Different cultures show these emotions differently. But smiles are universal. We all smile when we are happy. Even monkeys grin to express friendliness. https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/cheerful-chimps-are-animals-really-happy-when-they-smile#:~:text=The%20great%20apes%20go%20a%20step%20further%3A%20Their,and%20pleasurable%20situations%2C%20such%20as%20during%20sexual%20intercourse.
Depending on the circumstances, though, not all smiles reflect happiness or joy. Smiles convey nervousness, a need to please, submission, amusement, attraction and according to modern psychology, much more.
Duchenne de Boulogne (1806-1875), was a French physician and neurologist who introduced studies on electrical stimulation of muscles. He used the results of his experiments as a tool to learn about human anatomy in living people. He mapped all the human facial muscles.
In one of Duchenne’s most famous experiments, he tested the facial muscles of a man who could not feel pain. Duchenne stimulated the man’s muscles to make him smile then photographed his many expressions. The man’s smiles never looked happy. But when Duchenne told the same man a funny joke, his mouth smiled broadly in reaction as expected, but he also involuntarily contracted the muscles around his eyes. That was the smile Duchenne was looking for, one of pure enjoyment.
A genuine smile, one that conveys happiness, friendliness, joy, one that is sincere, is called a Duchenne smile. https://practicalpie.com/duchenne-smile/.
Controversy surrounds whether or not you can fake a Duchenne smile. While our mouth muscles are pretty easy to voluntarily manipulate, it’s really difficult to work the ones that produce “crows-feet.” So, some say no. But a study from 2012 showed some participants could actually manipulate all the muscles needed to produce a Duchenne smile. Good actors can do it. You can, too. Train yourself in this skill by thinking up happy memories. The orbicularis oculi muscles, the ones at the corners of our eyes, are tied to the part of our brain where we process emotions. So, some say you can fake a Duchenne. I’m in that camp.
The first gummy ear-to-ear grin that lights up the precious face of a two-month old baby is a great example of a Duchenne smile. I remember my babies’ first smiles. Huge, gummy grins they were, that took up at least half their little faces. I worked hard for those grins and was immensely rewarded. Scientists believe babies are born with the ability to smile. Even blind babies smile. Actually, I’m smiling at my baby-memory. Not a Duchenne smile, more wistful, Mona Lisa-ish. Maybe you are, too.
Smiles are the spontaneous expression of joy. And smiles are contagious.
By now we all (I hope) are covering our mouths and noses with masks. Made of cloth or synthetic polymer fibers, decorated or plain, they trap germs. They protect us when we breathe in and protect everyone else when we breathe out. They are most assuredly necessary.
But we lose an important piece of non-verbal communication: the smile.
Not all smiles are Duchenne smiles, of course. A researcher at The University of California-San Francisco identified 19 different kinds of smiles and divided them into two categories, polite/social smiles, and sincere/felt smiles. The polite smiles use many fewer muscles than the sincere smiles.
Sincere smiles affect our moods. Even if we “fake it till we make it,” our belief that a genuine smile improves our outlook, well-being, and even health, proves correct. Our bodies are more relaxed when we smile. That contributes to good health and a strong immune system. https://www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/fascinating-facts-about-smiling/
About the only place I go anymore is the grocery store. The other day, I was shopping with a list as fast and carefully as I could. When it was my turn to check out, I felt myself smile. Why did I do that? Habit? The store clerk I was acknowledging couldn’t tell I was smiling. I think it was a spontaneous reaction, the expression of joy I felt greeting another human being. Face to face. I bet she smiled back.
Polite smiles probably don’t show up behind our masks. We need to practice Duchenne smiles. We’ll feel better and people will notice. Then they’ll smile, too. That’s the kind of contagion I can live with.
-—stay curious! (and keep smiling)