Celebrating World Smile Day
Assistant Managing Editor
It takes 17 muscles to form on a face. It takes only two dots and one stroke of a pen to draw on paper. It’s traditionally yellow and black. It’s never sad.
It’s the smiley face.
Commercial artist Harvey Ball created the smiley face in 1963.
According to WorldSmileDay.com, Harvey “declared that the first Friday in October each year would henceforth be World Smile Day. Ever since that first World Smile Day held in 1999, it has continued every year in Smiley’s hometown of Worcester, Mass. and around the world.”
The Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, created in 2001 to honor Harvey after he died, is the official sponsor of World Smile Day.
Harvey’s idea for World Smile Day came from his concern about how the original meaning and intent of the smiley face was becoming lost through the processes of over-commercialization and marketplace repetition.
According to the website, the smiley face has become “most recognizable symbol of good will and good cheer on the planet,” and knows “no politics, no geography and no religion,” so Harvey thought that “we, all of us, should devote one day each year to smiles and kind acts.”
The motto of World Smile Day is “do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.” Each year, people do acts of kindness individually and in groups around the world.
The action of smiling, however, can not only make someone else smile, but it can also make the person who is smiling actually feel better.
Cameron University psychology professor Dr. Adam Randell said this idea is supported through psychological research.
“There’s such a thing called the facial feedback hypothesis,” Randell said. “If you maintain a genuine smile for 15 to 30 seconds, then you actually begin feeling the emotion expressed on your face… you start feeling kind of giddy, kind of good, kind of happy.”
Randell said different things make people smile for different reasons.
“Smiling’s just a signal to others of how we feel,” he said. “A smile can elicited by basically anything that the person evaluates as good, which for different people – because people have different goals – can be different things.
“If you don’t like someone, then them getting hurt, is a good thing for you, so that can make you smile. It’s certainly not going to make them smile or anybody that likes them smile, unless it’s benign violation, [which is] basically when someone is harmed, but you know they’re not really in any serious harm.”
Randell said a smile can be either fake or genuine.
“The only real way to differentiate between the two is whether or not there’s neural activity accompanying the experience at the emotion state,” he said, “but there’s a genuine facial expression associated with happiness. That involves a smile, but it also involves eye crinkling.”
He said the pitch of one’s voice can also be a factor in determining whether his or her smile is fake or genuine.
“If you notice, smiling warps the shape of your mouth,” Randell said, “and it changes the pitch with which you talk, so people can identify, even if they’re not looking at them… just by listening to them when they talk, if they’re smiling or not.”
Though smiling can be an indicator of happiness, Randell said people can live happily without smiling; for example, people who cannot not smile because of physical disability, can still feel happy.
In the 2012 article “The Science Behind the Smile,” Harvard Business Review’s Gardiner Morse interviewed Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert. Gilbert said people tend to find or produce happiness even in challenging circumstances.
“One of the most reliable findings of the happiness studies is that we do not have to go running to a therapist every time our shoelaces break,” Gilbert said. “We have a remarkable ability to make the best of things. Most people are more resilient than they realize.”
According to the Gilbert, volunteering is an ideal way for people to bring happiness into not only the lives of others but also into their own lives.
“One of the most selfish things you can do is help others,” Gilbert says. “Volunteer at a homeless shelter. You may or may not help the homeless, but you will almost surely help yourself. And nurture your social connections. Twice a week, write down three things you’re grateful for, and tell someone why.”
Even though World Smile Day 2015 has passed, people do not have to wait until next year to make someone smile.
They can be the reason for another person’s smile today.
Someone once said, “A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give.
“A smile cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen… Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.”