How many times a day do we smile? It all depends on the person and the circumstances. But do we always do this to express pleasure? Smiling is difficult and can reveal a lot to us. However, unlike laughter, which has occupied scientists for twenty years, a smile – the subtlest manifestation of human feelings – has been little studied.
When do we smile for the first time? Between 30 and 45 days of life, at the latest at three months. The kid smiles to express joy at the sight of a familiar person, from a melodic sound or after a meal. Then, imitating the expression on the face of an adult, he learns to put different emotions into a smile.
American psychologist Paul Ekman identified 19 smiles, including grimaces of fear, contempt or irony. Smiling is primarily a brain process. It all starts with the excitation of the anterior zone of the hypothalamus, and the excitation of the posterior zone of the hypothalamus causes a reverse reaction of discontent. From there, a stream of nerve impulses is transmitted to the limbic system, which is responsible for emotions. Muscle tone weakens, a satisfied expression appears.
Smiling is a different language, a way to express what we do not say in words
To laugh, we use 15 muscles; to smile, we need no less. However, different smiles use different muscles. For example, a polite smile – a simple stretching of the lips – contracts the zygomaticus major muscle, and a wide and joyful smile uses the circular muscle, which is responsible for the movement of the eyelids. Moreover, the muscles around the eyes can only contract involuntarily when we really experience pleasant feelings. And therefore it is impossible to confuse a forced grimace and a smile of happiness.
Smiling is a different language, a way to express what we do not say in words. A smile is not at all a faint semblance of laughter, it opens up different worlds to us: a happy smile of a lover, an embarrassed smile of a timid person, an insinuating smile of a seducer or a detached smile of a Buddha … We have chosen six smiles and invite you to get to know them.
A friendly smile: the one that meets us
A welcoming smile, or a smile of politeness, which simultaneously brings together and maintains a distance, can make us suddenly feel at ease, even if nothing connects us with the person who smiles at us.
“I always remember the smile of the woman who worked in our bakery,” says 36-year-old Alexandra. “When I was a little girl, I came to her for bread, her smile gave me great joy.” Such a smile is not addressed directly to our inner world, it is not addressed entirely to us personally, but to that common and universal, whose image unites us all.
“A sincere smile touches something very important in us – our innate sensitivity to kindness,” the Dalai Lama emphasizes in his book Ethics in the New Millennium (Sofia, 2004).
Embarrassed smile: justifies us
A smile does not always express pleasure, sometimes it can speak of our desire to distance ourselves. An embarrassed smile can appear on our lips when we have made some mistake and a feeling of shame has seized us. This is a commentary smile that speaks of our confusion.
“A sad smile shows that we are trying to cope with emotions rather than just endure them,” explains French psychotherapist Catherine Emele-Perissol. If our smile is valid in human relationships, it is partly because it testifies to … our fragility.
A courageous smile: builds self-confidence
By forcing ourselves to smile, we remember our successes, not our failures. “Working on my smile and teaching myself to speak in public, I believed in myself,” says 48-year-old Lina. Smiling can help you overcome stress and face change more calmly.
“I didn’t know how to ask for an extra vacation,” says 27-year-old Ivan. – I decided to approach the boss with a smile. And it worked! ” The smile brought a smile back.
Protective smile: protects us
In a situation of uncertainty, a smile is our first weapon, a way to relax, which helps to restrain our own aggressive impulses and neutralize the aggression that another may experience towards us. This stress relief sign is used in all cultures.
“When I enter a room where I don’t know anyone, I involuntarily start smiling, as if I want to protect myself,” admits 25-year-old Valentina.
The conspiratorial smile: unites us
A conspiratorial smile suggests that people have a common past, that they have experienced something important together. She brings out a deep understanding, closeness with a few select people.
“When shooting, I love being able to catch the conspiratorial smiles and gazes of strangers on the street,” says 25-year-old travel photographer Stephen from Norway. The smiles that he managed to capture are the best memories of his travels.
Seductive smile: the one that conquers us
The German ethologist Irenaus Eibl-Eibsfeldt proved that smiling is part of the seduction ritual around the world. Among Europeans, a smile is what women value most in a man; she is ahead of even the look. Smiling is both encouraging and soothing.
“Although he didn’t have any qualities that I like, he won me over with his gentle and playful smile,” says 33-year-old photo editor Lisa, who has been living with her friend for a year now. “I felt completely disarmed and completely trusted him.”