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What Does Your Smile Say About You?

Turn That Frown Upside Down

Want to be happy? Just smile. Believe it or not, forcing yourself to smile can actually make you happier.

Paul Ekman, PhD, a psychologist who is an expert in facial expressions, taught himself to arrange the muscles in his face to make certain expressions. To his surprise, he found himself feeling the emotions that he was mimicking. When he raised his cheeks, parted his lips, and turned the corners of his mouth up, he felt happier.

Ekman and his research partner went on to do a study of college students to see if they, too, would feel happier by making themselves smile. The researchers measured the students’ brain activity while the students followed instructions to smile using the muscles in their cheeks and around their mouths.

Whether the students smiled spontaneously or on purpose, the activity in their brains was virtually the same. They felt happy.

Smile Anxiety

Chipped or missing teeth, fillings, or discolored teeth are unveiled when your lips part to smile -- so some people simply avoid it.

If you find yourself wanting to cover up your smile, you could be holding yourself back in more ways than you realize. "Life is much more challenging for people who are so self-conscious about their teeth they don’t want to smile," McClain says. Make a date with your dentist to talk about your concerns and potential corrections. Many dental problems can be fixed.

One of McClain’s patients with excess gum tissue was ashamed of her short-looking teeth. "We did a procedure called crown lengthening, and it was amazing what a difference it made,” McClain says. “She was so much more self-confident."

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