What Does It Mean to Smile With Your Eyes?

To smile with your eyes, often known colloquially as “smizing,” means to convey the warmth, joy, or friendliness of a smile exclusively through your eye expression. This involves crinkling the corners of your eyes (engaging the orbicularis oculi muscles), creating a twinkle in your eyes, and sometimes a subtle elevation of the cheeks. Unlike a regular smile that primarily uses the muscles around the mouth, smizing is all about using the eyes to express genuine emotion.

The term “smize” was popularized by model and entrepreneur Tyra Banks, especially in the context of modeling and photography, where conveying emotion through the eyes can make a powerful impact. However, the concept is deeply rooted in the genuine human expression of emotion.

The Duchenne Smile

A Duchenne smile is a term used to describe a genuine, full-face smile, one that involves the contraction of both the zygomatic major muscle (which raises the corners of the mouth) and the orbicularis oculi muscle (which raises the cheeks and forms crow’s feet around the eyes). This type of smile is often associated with authentic happiness and positive emotion.

The Duchenne smile is named after the French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne. In the 19th century, Duchenne conducted research on the physiology of facial expressions by stimulating facial muscles with electrical currents. Through his studies, he determined that smiles resulting from true happiness not only utilize the muscles of the mouth but also engage the muscles around the eyes—an involuntary response that cannot be easily faked.

Distinguishing a Duchenne smile from a non-Duchenne smile (sometimes referred to as a “social” or “polite” smile) is often done by observing the eyes. If the eyes are not involved in the smile—meaning the area around the eyes does not crinkle and there’s no evident crow’s feet—it’s likely not a genuine Duchenne smile.

The Duchenne smile is a powerful form of nonverbal communication. It is universally recognized across cultures and is often seen as a sign of genuine contentment and a way to build social bonds. It’s considered the smile that truly reaches the eyes, reflecting an inner sense of joy or amusement.

It’s associated with the “Duchenne smile,” named after the 19th-century French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne, who identified the involuntary contraction of the outer parts of the eyes as a marker of a sincere, genuine smile.

Here’s how you can master the art of the Duchenne Smile or smizing:

  1. Relax Your Face: Start with a relaxed facial expression. Tension, especially around the eyes and forehead, can make a smile seem forced.
  2. Think Happy Thoughts: Genuine smiles are often the result of an authentic emotional response. Think of something that makes you truly happy or content to naturally invoke a warm feeling.
  3. Engage Your Eyes: Focus on the muscles around your eyes. When you smile genuinely, the outer corners of your eyes crinkle and create what are known as “crow’s feet.” Try to achieve this effect without over exaggerating.
  4. Slight Squint: Gently squint your eyes. This doesn’t mean you should squeeze them shut, but rather just create a slight squint that naturally happens when you’re smiling genuinely.
  5. Raise Your Cheekbones: Allow your cheekbones to move upwards naturally as you smile. This movement will help to create a more authentic smize.
  6. Practice in the Mirror: Practice your smize in front of a mirror to see how it feels when you engage the correct muscles around your eyes and cheeks. This can help you become more aware of your facial movements.
  7. Maintain Good Posture: Good posture can affect your facial expression. Stand or sit up straight, relax your shoulders, and open your chest. This posture can help project confidence and happiness, which can translate to your face.
  8. Soft Gaze: Your gaze should be soft and warm, not intense or staring. Look at the person or camera as if you’re seeing an old friend.
  9. Relax Your Mouth: Keep your mouth relaxed, or allow a gentle, closed-lip smile. A relaxed mouth complements the eyes and doesn’t detract from the smize.
  10. Practice Mindfulness: Being present in the moment can help convey a genuine smize. If you’re genuinely engaged and enjoying the interaction, it will show in your eyes.

Remember that smizing is about conveying emotion, not just about the physical action of moving your facial muscles. It should feel natural, not forced. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to master this skill and communicate warmth and happiness through your eyes alone.

Smizing can be particularly useful in situations where your mouth might be obscured, such as wearing a mask, or in professional settings where an overt smile might not be appropriate, but you still want to convey a positive demeanor. Smizing can communicate that you are approachable, friendly, and engaged in the interaction or situation.  The main point is that your smile will “touch” your eyes.