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.
ABOUT THE BLOGGet 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.