Image source: Pinterest
When: 6th October
The iconic smiley face symbol was created in 1963. Harvey Ball worked to ensure that his design was free from gender, race, age and politics, to create a symbol for all people and all cultures. The first World Smile Day took place in 1999, when Harvey Ball asked that on the first Friday of October, we take time to focus on bringing smiles to others through acts of kindness and positive thinking. The World Smile Foundation was formed to honour Harvey Ball, upon his death in 2001, and that foundation works to carry on his legacy today...
"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Reasons to smile this #WorldSmileDay
Smiling is great – it’s something we are born knowing how to do (although it takes between 6 and 8 weeks to work out the coordination to do it!), and is understood by all cultures as the universal language of happiness.
The best thing about smiling, is your brain registers the muscle movements that go into making a smile, and can’t tell if it’s real or fake, so you get the benefits of a positive feedback loop whether you feel like smiling or not.
Smiling triggers endorphins, which are not only good for your heart, but also natural pain relievers. You also get a dose of serotonin, to improve your mood and boost the immune system.
The endorphins released from smiling reduces production of stress hormone cortisol, so smiling in times of stress can help us – and the people around us – stay optimistic, and feel less overwhelmed*.
Smiles are contagious, and make us appear more attractive to others.
70% of Britons find smiling more attractive than makeup: when shown images of a woman smiling, without makeup, and the same woman wearing makeup but no smile. When asked to describe the pictures, people used adjectives like ‘approachable’, and ‘fun’ and for the smiling image, and ‘moody’, and ‘hostile’ for the makeup image (interestingly, both were described as ‘confident’ and ‘successful’, so we’re not emptying our makeup bags just yet...)
In fact, we find smiling so attractive that fake smiling in a dressing room makes consumers more likely to buy the clothes they’re trying on!
Smiles make us more attractive, in part because we tend to mimic facial expressions in order to understand them. A Swedish study found that when subjects were shown pictures of people smiling, frowning and making confused faces, their first impulse was to make the face back. The study concluded that when shown a smiling person, it takes conscious effort not to move your face to match theirs.
So, if you see someone smiling, you smile back, releasing all of those wonderful neurochemicals we already talked about, which will make you genuinely happy to see them. This in turn, prompts them to smile at you and just like that, you’re more attractive to each other.
If you want to go really pro, why not give us a laugh? It’s like smiling, but with an inbuilt workout and emotional release.
*Note, it is not healthy to use smiles to cover up times of severe distress – this blog is only referring to general day-to-day issues, and is suggesting positive thinking, rather than repression. If you are concerned that someone you know may be using smiles to hide real issues, check their eyes: a genuine smile involves an involuntary contraction of the orbicularis oculi muscles, which raises the cheeks and produces crow’s feet. Since we find it difficult to move these muscles voluntarily, fake smiles tend to leave the eye area relatively unchanged. For practiced smilers, you may need to check out context clues: fake smiles tend to last longer than genuine ones, and occur too soon after – or delayed from – the stimulus they are designed to accompany.