Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.
-Hafez (Poet 1325-1390)
Noticing how a person smiles can give you great insight into the degree of authentic happiness a person feels. Duchenne smiles occur when there is genuine joy felt, the involuntary muscles of the eye crinkle (crow’s feet) and the cheeks rise. It often precedes laughter and is uniquely associated with positive emotion. A forced smile involves only the upturning of lips and can signify a range of emotions such as embarrassment, grief, dishonesty, being horrified (or too much Botox). A sincere smile is powerful to the person smiling and those around them because it sends signals of cooperation and altruism, while also lowering stress hormones and heart rate.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley analyzed the smiles of 141 photos from a college yearbook. They identified the women who had Duchenne smiles vs. forced smiles and followed them for 30 years. Astonishingly, they found that the college women who had Duchenne smiles predicted longer life, better marriages and a higher degree of well-being 30 years later.
Another study looking at the connection between photos on baseball player cards and longevity found that an intense smile at a single point in time on their baseball card was strongly linked to a longer life. A single snapshot can be a window into a person’s core disposition.
French anatomist Duchenne, who discovered the genuine smile using severed heads of criminals, said in 1862, a smile can be willed into action, but that only the “sweet emotions of the soul” force the orbicularis oculi (muscles around the eyes) to contract. “Its inertia in smiling that unmasks a false friend, ” he wrote.