Smiling makes me look a decade younger. At least, that is what Microsoft’s cognitive services tell me.

I made the shock discovery at the AI Everything Summit in Dubai. I had just finished speaking on the topic of “Machines Learning, Humans Leading” and had stopped to chat to someone in the corridor, when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a giant projection of a face on a screen. To my utter surprise, it wasn’t just any face, it was mine.

As I turned my full attention to the screen, I saw a number imposed above my face. It was my age, only it kept changing — fluctuating up and down with every expression I pulled.

With my curiosity well and truly piqued, I decided to do an experiment.

Now, as you read this, you may be rapidly reaching the conclusion that the AI responsible for predicting my age was flawed and totally unreliable. But for me, this kind of misses the point.

- Tommy Weir

With a little help from the person standing by my side, I changed position and took a few steps back, creating more space between us.

“Ok, let’s smile,” I said to my unwitting accomplice.

As we did, my on-screen age suddenly plummeted to 41, making me 10 years younger than I really am.

“Now, make a plain expression,” I said.

With that, my age jumped almost a decade, to 50 (though still a year younger than my actual age, I hasten to add!)

Now, as you read this, you may be rapidly reaching the conclusion that the AI responsible for predicting my age was flawed and totally unreliable. But for me, this kind of misses the point.

Power of a smile

Whether the technology was 100 per cent accurate or not isn’t the issue, what is really interesting is just how powerful a smile can be.

Days after the AI summit, I found an article titled, “11 Secrets of Irresistible People”. I wanted to find out why it is that some people always seem to radiate energy and confidence.

You know, those people who are able to charm our socks off, even if they lack money, looks, social connections or the other powers of attraction that might ordinarily engage us. I was curious to learn their secrets, and sure enough, as soon as I began to read, I found the answer I was looking for: they smile.

In fact, that article isn’t the only source that says it’s good to smile. Countless scientific studies have confirmed that a genuine smile is generally considered attractive to others.

And smiles are infectious too; people naturally mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. So, if you want people to find you irresistible, smile at them during conversations and they will unconsciously return the favour and feel good as a result.

That said, smiling isn’t always as easy as it sounds. I was taught growing up that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, but actually, there isn’t any proof behind that old saying.

In fact, scientists have studied the muscles needed for both facial expressions and the consensus seems to be that smiling requires a little more effort. So, if you want to impress, it might just be time to start training those facial muscles.

We all know that feelings inspire actions, but let’s not forget that actions can also inspire feelings. In other words, there’s a good chance that smiling will make you feel happier, and that isn’t half bad as side-effects go!

Fake smiles

Even fake smiles do the trick.

While some researchers insist the benefits of smiling only come from a genuine expression of happiness, others have found that a forced smile can still make you feel happy, even when your mood and surroundings suggest otherwise.

Smiling in response to a joke or something that brings you joy is a natural, involuntary reaction. But it can be just as much a voluntary and deliberate response. So, get those facial muscles into gear and make it your choice to smile.

When the worst that can happen is you feel a little better about life, you really have nothing to lose — except maybe a few years off your age!

Tommy Weir is CEO of EMLC Leadership Ai Lab and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at tsw@emlc.ai.