Does It Take More Muscles to Frown or Smile?

As you smiling right now? Or are you frowning?

Which one of these looks more appealing to you?

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Jacob Tremblay, the actor who played Auggie Pullman in Wonder, once said, “Choosing kindness is just as easy as smiling.”

And maybe he’s right.

You may have heard that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.

Granted, it’s hard to scientifically prove such a thing. It depends on what kind of frown or smile you use. After all, it could take more muscles to force a smile for a photo than it does to do a resting frown. What exactly makes for a smile or a frown?

Moving the corners of your lips upward requires at least ten muscles while lowering them requires only six. According to Dr. David H. Song, smiling takes 12 muscles, while frowning only takes 11.

None of that takes into account the duration of the smile or frown, the extent of the smile or frown, or the intensity of the smile or frown.

But I believe the point is still made. An attitude of positivity toward other people allows you to wear an easy smile using very little muscle power. On the other hand, an attitude of negativity causes you to tighten your muscles in a frown all day without even knowing it. You’ll stress yourself out.

Consider a phenomena known as the Duchenne smile. A regular smile is when your mouth smiles. But a Duchenne smile, named after neurologist Guillaume Duchenne, is when you smile with your mouth, eyes, and really the whole face.

For those who love biology, a Duchenne smile contracts the zygomatic major muscles and the orbicularis oculi muscles. Your mouth widens. Your cheeks raise. Those crow’s feet around your eyes squeeze themselves. Some people call it “smizing.”

A generic smile is one thing. Smiling with your face is another.

Here’s one: What’s more difficult? Laughing? Or trying not to laugh?

So let’s look at the bigger picture. Even if it takes more muscles to smile, the rewards are greater for everyone. Go a whole day frowning at every stranger. Then go the whole day smiling at them. Record your results. Record how many of them smiled or frowned. Record how you felt. Quantitatively and qualitatively, I guarantee you’ll find positive results.

Having a bad day? Don’t feel like smiling? Well, nobody wants to see a forced, fake smile. But then again, suppose you urge yourself to smile. When you come across the first person you see, imagine that your goal is to help them smile, and the only way to do it is to smile at them. When you see them smile back, maybe that will give you a reason to smile.

It can be that simple.

One thing I always liked about smiles is that they always have a good beginning and ending. Just look at the shape. A smile starts out on top, dips for a bit, and ends right back on top.

Maybe that’s your day. You start off hoping it’s going to be a good day, then it takes a bad turn. But suppose just the right person smiles at you, and you begin to turn it around.

Smiles tell their own story. They can say everything, even when they say nothing at all. They speak for themselves.

If you don’t know what to say, smile. If you don’t know why, smile. If you don’t know who the person is, smile. It is our most advantageous and flexible facial expression. On the plus side, it can also turn right into laughter.

So set a goal today. Urge yourself to smile at every person you make eye contact with, or even walk by. If it works out for you, set it for a goal every day.

Take that frown, turn it upside down. Do the easiest good deed. Share a smile, and it might be shared right back at you.