dreamstime_s_12012488Smiling is a funny thing. Not only do we smile because we’re happy, but the act of smiling itself can make us happy. When we smile, we activate certain muscles, which send a message to the brain, telling it, “We’re smiling,” and the brain, in response, thinks, “I guess I must be happy.”

This positive reinforcement loop helps promote positive mood.

Now researchers say that stimulating our smiling muscles in other ways can also make us feel happy.

Comparing Vowel Sounds and Emotion

German researchers wondered whether certain sounds were associated with certain emotions. They wanted to gauge whether the long “o” sound (as in alone) was inherently more closely attached to sad emotions than the long “i” sound (as in smile), which should be associated with happiness.

Researchers’ first experiment involved showing people either sad or happy movie clips, then asking them make up fake words. When people watched sad moving clips, they tended to make up words that had a lot of “o” sounds in them. When they watched happy clips, they made up words that had “i” sounds.

To confirm results of their first experiment, researchers than had a different set of subjects watch cartoons making either an “i” or an “o” sound. Turns out that making the “i” sound made people enjoy the cartoons more.

Your Smile and Your Happiness

Researchers say that the “i” sound causes the contraction of the zygomaticus major muscle (the one involved in the fake vs. Duchenne smile, remember?) which is why it makes us happy. By stimulating this muscles, the long “i” sound sends signals to the brain that you’re smiling and must be happy.

At Smile Columbia Dentistry, we put the word “smile” in our name because we want to make our patients happy by every means possible. If you’re looking for a dentist that can give you a real reason to enjoy each day a little more, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC cosmetic dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry today.