Surprising Facts About Smiling

Seeing a child’s smile creates as much pleasure as 2,000 chocolate bars—or $25,000 in cash. That was the surprising finding of a British study conducted by Hewlett Packard, using an electromagnetic brain scan machine and heart-rate monitor to measure “the mood-boosting value” of various stimuli. The study also found that seeing a loved one’s smile was worth about 600 chocolate treats or 8,500 Pounds Sterling ($13,175), while a friend’s grin was valued at $225, or 200 chocolate bars. In a subsequent survey, 1,000 British adults ranked smiling as more likely to give a short-term high than sex, candy, or shopping (in that order).

Smile often—and the people around you will literally feel like a million bucks. And here are more ways it pays off to supersize your grin: Research suggests that the size of your smile may predict how successful you’ll be at love and work, how inspiring you’ll be to others, and even how long you’ll live. To learn more, I talked to Ron Gutman, author of Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act (TED Books, 2011).  Here’s a look at some of the intriguing research from around the world that he’s compiled.

10 Ways to Improve Your Smile.

Babies are born smiling.

 3-D ultrasound imaging has captured vivid pictures in which developing babies are smiling in the womb, says Gutman, the CEO of Healthtap, Palo Alto, California-based healthcare social networking company. “Even before birth, babies seem to be practicing this uniquely human expression.” Initially babies smile in their sleep, but by three months of age, they learn they can inspire smiles in others through a deliberate smile—launching one of the first childhood games: the “smile exchange,” as the American Academy of Pediatrics terms this milestone in infant development.

We can detect a smile from more than 300 feet away.

 That’s more than twice the distance at which we can distinguish other facial expressions. It’s thought that this ability evolved so we could quickly tell friend from foe and react accordingly. Studies at both the Institute of Cognitive Science, in France, and the University of Manchester, in the UK, separately report that a smile can even make us feel that a complete stranger looks familiar.

Read about 6 surprising happiness boosts.

NEXT: Smiling Is Contagious >>

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