Smile your way to success
10 December 2014, 12:24
Nairobi - A charismatic smile has been linked to success via a number of international studies throughout the ages, but it doesn’t take modern science to see the common thread:
Picture president Barak Obama, ex-president Bill Clinton, Marilyn Monroe, George Clooney, Will Smith, Simon Baker and Julia Roberts.
While these people clearly possess other talents that have taken them to the top of their game, there is no doubt that they share at least one quality that cannot be denied - a 1000-watt smile that is so magnetic, so heartfelt, that people cannot help but smile right back.
"A charismatic smile can hold the key to personal and professional success, because it not only defines how you feel inside, but also how others respond to you," says Gurgenidze.
Common belief holds that we smile because we are happy, but modern science is proving that it is more likely that we are happy because we smile.
Research on the impact of a smile began in earnest in the 1970s, when Carroll Izard (1971) concluded that emotions (such as happiness) have the capacity to affect personalities and life outcomes by influencing how people think, behave and interact with others.
This study was expanded upon in 2001 and again in 2009. The two separate studies proved that people with positive emotions are happier and have more stable personalities, more committed marriages and better cognitive and interpersonal skills than those with negative emotions, throughout their life spans.
More recently, in 2012, two longitudinal studies used Facebook photographs to demonstrate that smile intensity coded from a single Facebook profile photograph, submitted by a selection of male and female participants in their first semester at college, was a robust predictor of self-reported life satisfaction three and a half years later.
Also read: Zimbabwe police are told to smile
"The bottom line is that people respond better to people who smile charismatically than they do to people who don’t, and this response is often what determines our success in life," says Gurgenidze.
She adds that while emotion normally leads to expression, it has also been proven that expression can lead to emotion. In his Facial Feedback Hypothesis study in 2002, Robert Soussignan proved the notion that the construction of an expression will produce the subjective feeling of an emotion.
Says Gurgenidze: "Basically, if you force your face to look angry or happy, the rest of your body will react as well, and you may involuntarily begin to feel those emotions."
"A look of anger will make your heart speed up and your blood vessels dilate until your skin turns red; while a genuine smile will actually result in the release of endorphins."
This specific hypothesis has been further supported by a study entitled Grin and Bear it: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response (2012), which revealed that holding a smile can actually help relieve the physiological symptoms of stress.
Incredibly, a study conducted in 2010, has also linked smile intensity to longevity.
"So it is absolutely true that your smile can hold the key to your personal happiness, and so too, to your personal and professional success," says Gurgenidze.
So how should normal people, like you and I, look after our most important facial feature?
According to Gurgenidze, there are three elements to a smile: teeth, lips and eyes.
"From an early age, we must learn to look after our teeth, so that we are not embarrassed to show them when we smile. Sometimes this means orthodontia from an early age, so if you are a parent, rest assured your money on retainers and braces is being well spent!"
Lips are the second part of the equation. "Lips are the most sensual part of our faces, because they are an important tactile sensory organ," says Gurgenidze.
"Unfortunately, the skin of our lips has only three to five cellular layers, as opposed to typical facial skin which has up to 16 layers, which means that the lips tend to start ageing quite early."
Gurgenidze says that this ageing shows up in a variety of different ways, through loss of lip volume, loss of colour, an abnormal ratio of upper to lower lip, and the appearance of perioral lines and marionette lines (vertical lines, as well as those that appear on the sides of the lips).
Fortunately, modern science has a solution in the form of dermal fillers, which can be used to plump up and hydrate lips, as well as fill fine lines around the mouth area.
"It is crucial that practitioners use the right products and techniques when treating the lips, in order to ensure that the lips remain proportional to the face so that the outcome is natural," Gurgenidze emphasises.
The final part of the equation is our eyes, because a real smile should always reach your eyes. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that a smile that does not reach your eyes is not recognised by our own subconscious, or by others, as a display of happiness, and thus does not elicit the desired response.
"Dermal fillers can once again play a pivotal role here, however, it is important for a practitioner to have a light touch, especially when it comes to treating the eye area."
"Too many people are too enthusiastic about freezing crows feet with anti-wrinkle injectables. A combination of light injectable fillers with a low does of neurotoxin will produce the most natural results," says Gurgenidze.
Last, but not least, smile more broadly and more often. Because as Marilyn Monroe once famously said: "A smile is the best makeup a girl (or anyone!) can wear".
"Smile more often, more broadly. You will feel better, people around you will feel better, doors will open, and success will follow," says Gurgenidze.
Tips on how to look after your smile:
- Don’t smoke. If you do, stop now.
- Look after your teeth and gums. The more natural your pearly whites, and the healthier your gums, the more natural your smile because teeth and gum form the basic support of your lips.
- Drink at least two litres of water a day, to help keep your skin - and thus your lips - sufficiently hydrated.
- Wear a hat, and use an SPF on your face, to protect the skin on your face and lips from the sun.
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