Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Smile, and the World Smiles With You, Right?
All this week, I have been reporting a series of stories about happiness. Now, admittedly, I wasn't sure what to expect when I started investigating this six months ago. And, in full disclosure, as a neurosurgeon, I like objective facts - and I wasn't sure I would find them in the world of happiness. My producers will tell you I was surprised. So, I decided to share a little bit about what I learned.

This morning, I filed a story about the meaning of smiles. Instinctively, most of us can tell when a smile is genuine or fake. We can also usually tell when a person is really happy, or not. But, what is it that we are really seeing?

Well, turns out it's hard to pretend that you're happy when you are not. In a true smile, there are some telltale muscle movements that are almost reflexive in nature. As the corners of the lips go up, there is an almost simultaneous contraction of the muscles under the eye, called the orbicularis oculi. What's even more fascinating is that with a true smile, researchers have found, the area of the brain most associated with happiness, the left frontal lobe, lights up.

Other little signs include a slight pouching under the eyes, which is impossible to reproduce, unless you are truly happy. I tried and couldn't do it. There is also a little crinkle in the cheek - again, hard to fake. Now, if you're like me, you'll probably dig out your own yearbook photo and start analyzing.

Still skeptical? Well, get this: According to our smile expert and his studies, those with genuine smiles in their college yearbook photos were significantly more likely to be happier a full 30 years later. So, if you do look at those old photos, let me know what you find.

Make sure to tune into CNN this Sunday night at 10pm Eastern for my full, in-depth report on happiness and the surprising connections to your health.
I have worked in environments where the employees too often become products of their surroundings. I noticed this, even to the extent where one senior person at one location, returned greeting was "Still smiling?". It would amuse me when I noticed the real fakes and those who try to make the fakes look real. A genuine smile comes from within, it is indeed more than an expression on the face. It is from a heart of joyfulness, happiness and contentment not totally dependent on your state or surroundings.
Very nice Dr. Gupta. You just made me smile (for real!)

Unfortunately, my smile is EXACTLY the same in every single picture of mine.

What could this mean?
As you must know, after a certain age and history in a person's life, if you are NOT smiling you can appear either angry or sad...not at all pretty. People react to that..but one doesn't always feel like's work.. tiresome really, to keep your face up in a constant smile all the time just for people to let you stay in the room...that's why I like living in body feels compelled to ask you to *smile* just to make them feel better....
Very interesting! I have always had a hard time faking a smile, so when I smile for pictures, it is genuine. I've received a lot of compliments on my smile over the years, and that makes me smile more.
Dear Sanjay,

Your photo above tells me that you are truly smiling with all your heart !!! Great article.
Interesting concept, doc! I consider myself a happy person and am often asked my age and get a response of incredulity. I'll be 49 in Dec. and have very few wrinkles or aches and pains. Very healthy also. How you handle stress is also a factor.
I remember reading a study in college in which the participants filled out a survey on their general mood. However, one group had to fill it out while holding a pencil in their mouths, thus forcing them to smile. If I'm remembering correctly, the smiling group actually had results that indicated greater happiness than the control group. So perhaps sometimes the smile doesn't even need to be real.

PS: I think it's great you have your own blog now.
Nice article...although a little late for the election campaigns (to better judge the candidates).
I have always believed in the power of the smile. I have a plaque in my office that says, "You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stopped laughing."
A smile is the first step to laughing. So, remember to keep a smile handy. It's some of the best medicine in town.
Hi Dr. Gupta,
I'm "happy" you have a blog. I work with the public daily. And it doesn't matter what Nation they are from, I find a smile is read by all..No language barriers in that. Keep smiling and Happy Wednesday..Take Care
I believe when a person smiles, the eyes smile too. When my son Billy smiles, his eyes lights up and with that the dimples appear! A smile so cherished forever!
Now for the first time, I won't moan about the pouches under my eyes. I am a happy person, I have worked hard for what I have; have a great family and am satisfied with what I have. I don't need much more material items. To me, treating others as I wish to be treated brings me joy and happiness and seeing others smile, bring more joy. So the saying, "smile, and others will smile back," is true and helps us all be a little more satisfied with our lives.
This is assuming one is ignorant enough about the situation of the world to be happy by not caring about the suffering of others. It involves a lot of selfishness and a lot of chosen ignorance to be happy. A lot of people, such as myself, choose not to numb themselves to the negativity that is this world so that we constantly are reminded that it is up to us to help, to make a change. If I was happy, I wouldnt want to help. I would figure they could ignore ignore ignore just as I do and they should be fine, right?
I am working as an assistant at a High School. It is very interesting to observe the comparison between the genuine smile from the face of the teenagers compare to the smiles of educated and intelectual teachers.
I am a principal in an elementary school, and one of the greatest benefits is the opportunity to smile and laugh all day long. Interacting with kids keeps you young (and healthy, apparently.)

Sanjay, it is really cool that you have this blog. I love your show and your specials! I feel like I am talking to you for real :-)
American live a close doors life style. I'm not talking about walking a dog; I'm talking about relationships with family, neighbors and the people at the stores...People avoid eye contact all the time. People go to sundy school and churches to find friends... We need to learn to enjoy simple things in life. We need to go out first with our neighbors, then, the dog...we need to love and care for people in situations other than tragedies. The result will be a genuine smile and an EXPRESSION of peace.
wow, you smartie pants finally found me out ,eh?? Ihave done this all my life,my wife wants me to be serious to no avile, I always look on the funny side & have never meet a person that was a stranger, I love life, & love all people alike! I love & have laughed all of my 70+yrs. I will die smileing & be at peace with my God !!
Thank you all for sharing your smiling stories. Now there is a holiday to celebrate the laughs and smiles that tranform our moments. The day is Belly Laugh Day, January 24. How do you celebrate the great gift of laughter and smiling? On January 24 at 1:24 p.m. (local time) smile, throw your arms in the air and laugh out loud. Join the Belly Laugh Bounce 'Round the World.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. Please note that CNN makes reasonable efforts to review all comments prior to posting and CNN may edit comments for clarity or to keep out questionable or off-topic material. All comments should be relevant to the post and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying information via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.