By: Viktoria Ter-Nikoghosyan
After a trip to Armenia, a perceptive 7-year-old asked me, “Why don’t more Armenians smile?” The child had gone from Italy to Armenia and noticed the cultural differences among the boisterous Italian “Ciao Bella, Carina!” to the more formal and stoic “Barev Dzez.” I had a great dialogue with this inquisitive child…it was quite captivating and it took me back to a similar cultural difference that I noticed 25 years and have since, devoted a lot of time to understanding.
Often Armenian locals reference the “Fake American smile” and sometimes smiley people are asked with some sarcastic annoyance by Armenians, “Why are you so happy? What is there to smile about?” I started hearing and seeing this a lot about 25 years ago in Armenia. It was just after the break up of Soviet Union when a lot of Armenian Americans began visiting Armenia. And people started to notice the differences – smiling being one that I heard about a lot. Usually, when many people notice something it has some truth…
And so, I wanted to know the Science behind Smiling. This curiosity took me to become a consultant and coach in human communication and emotions to understand the biology behind smiles and its tremendous benefit for health, relationships and, success! Do not be surprised, smiles have a lot to do with success, yes, even “fake smiles”. I will explain that a little later.
How does smile happen?
According to different sources, we use from 18 to 46 facial muscles to smile. I joke that moody people have only 18 muscles.
What smiling does to our Biology?
When we smile happy hormones including dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin (they also called neurotransmitters) are released into our bloodstream and change the whole biochemical makeup of our body and therefore we feel good. This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Why does it happen?
Those glands that manufacture happy hormones are located next to the gland that regulates smile muscles. When you are happy for some reason you cannot help but smile. It works in the opposite direction as well. So you when the corners of your lips go upwards you canNOT help but produce happy hormones and feel good. We think we are so sophisticated but most of the time our body reacts naturally. If there is no reason to smile but you fake your smile you feel good for no reason! The majority of people feel bad for no reason why not feel good for no reason?
What does our smile do to others?
First of all a smile is contagious! If you put positive energy out, you will get positive energy in. Because of mirror neurons in our brain, we tend to relive in our mind whatever we see. When you smile other people are more likely to smile back and that will make them feel good.
When we smile we non-verbally communicate specific information that it is safe to deal with us. It sends a signal that we are approachable, authentic, available and open. A smile blocks “Stranger-Danger” response that otherwise would be triggered in other people. It is an innate mechanism to protect us. On top of that with a smile, we send out non-verbal information that we are open to communicate and be supportive. Moreover, the smile activates other people’s orbitofrontal cortex, the region of the brain that processes sensory rewards.
If you want more, then add laughter. When you laugh or sob (strangely enough, crying does the same) your diaphragm’s up and down movements trigger production of the same happy hormones: serotonins and endorphins. On top of that laughter is the most relaxing technique. Relaxation makes you feel good.
Our brain and body do not recognize the difference between a real and fake smile and laughter and produce happy hormones as soon as they get a signal that you smile or laugh. The muscle movements generate that signal. So as saying goes, fake it until you make it.
How can a smile bring you more success?
People will buy your services when they feel good about you and feel that they are rewarded. Experience and feelings are linked to how people do business – what products and services they purchase and from who. Those feelings and experiences stay with them – people purchase not products and services but feelings and experiences that stay with them.
Additionally, people will hire you when they feel good about you and feel that they are rewarded. It is that simple.
Louis Armstrong said it best, “When you’re smiling the whole world smiles with you” – this is absolutely true! I encourage each of you to smile, all the time and as often as possible. A single, loving smile has the power to change not only your world, but the world.
About the Author: Viktoria Ter-Nikoghosyan PhD, CH, MNLP-P is a Board Member of the Armenian International Women’s Association Bay Area Affiliate. She is a distinguished author, international coach, accomplished scientist and entrepreneur. Most recently she has authored a must read book titled “Want Your Teen To Listen?: The Proven Irresistible Formula to Get Your Teen to Cooperate and Avoid the Wrong Crowd and Bad Choices” available for purchase on Amazon in English and Russian.
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