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World Smile Day

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World Smile Day

Friday 7th of October is World Smile Day. The idea of the day is to do an act of kindness and help at least one person smile. This theme seems very appropriate with so many difficult things happening in the world that we have very little or no control over. But what we can do is focus on the small things we can control, taking a little extra time to help someone with something, or to make them laugh and smile.

The Origins of Smiley

We’re all familiar with the bright yellow smiley faced emoji. This much-loved symbol is based on a design created by artist, Harvey Ball, in 1963. Harvey originally created the smiley face design for a local company that wanted to boost the morale of their employees. The design grew in popularity until it became the international symbol of cheer and goodwill we are now so drawn to.

Harvey never copyrighted or trademarked the design so the only money he ever made from the smiley face was the $45 he was initially paid for it. Harvey maintained a philosophical attitude about this and was happy to see his design become so popular. In the late 1990’s, Harvey decided that we should all set aside one day to simply smile and be extra kind towards each other, which is how World Smile Day came about.

On this day, we can forget all our differences and just focus on being cheerful towards everyone we meet. The ‘butterfly effect’ of this on the people around us can be immense; smiling has the power not only to change your own mood but the moods of others. Humans are hardwired to mimic the expressions of others, so it’s scientifically proven that smiles are contagious!

What happens when we smile?

A smile is a powerful thing. When you smile, your brain releases tiny molecules in your brain called neuropeptides which help fight off stress. Other neurotransmitters – dopamine, serotonin and endorphins – then come into play too. The endorphins act as a mild pain reliever and serotonin is an antidepressant.

Dopamine is known as the ‘feel-good’ hormone – it gives you a sense of pleasure. It also gives you the motivation to do something when you’re feeling pleasure. Dopamine is part of your reward system which is designed, from an evolutionary standpoint, to reward you when you’re doing the things you need to do to survive — eat, drink, and reproduce. As humans, our brains seek out behaviours that release dopamine in our reward system. When you’re doing something pleasurable, your brain releases a large amount of dopamine. You feel good and you seek more of that feeling. Smiling and laughing is an integral part of dopamine release.

When you flash a genuine smile, it also immediately communicates friendliness, cooperation and openness and, at the same time, you’ll naturally be perceived as more trustworthy and agreeable.

Researchers have also found that even a fake smile can have a positive impact on your mood. Essentially, triggering certain facial muscles by smiling can ‘trick’ your brain into thinking you’re happy.

Why women smile more than men

According to research, the average woman smiles 62 times a day, while the average man smiles only 8 times a day. A special area in the brain called Brodmann’s Area 44 is responsible for controlling facial movements, including those that produce smiles and laughter. This part of the brain is larger in women than men, which may explain why they smile more often than their male counterparts.

It has also been argued that women tend to be more expressive, empathetic, and emotional so they naturally have better smile equipment than men. If this is true, maybe it’s time to bestow that smile on the men in our lives in particular who might just need to receive one the most…

What’s not to love about smiling?

  • Did you know that you burn more calories by smiling rather than frowning?
  • Children laugh approximately 20 times more often than adults.
  • Rather than cause wrinkles and smile lines, smiling exercises the facial muscles, keeping them supple and strong. So, smiling can even help you stay looking young.
  • Some great ways to help put a smile on our face include listening to up-beat music, feeling grateful, nature, chocolate, love, touch and a good joke.

Re-wire your brain through the body

When you smile, your brain is aware of the activity and actually keeps track of it. The more you smile, the more effective you are at breaking the brain’s natural tendency to think negatively. If you smile often enough, you end up rewiring your brain to make positive patterns more than it does negative ones. Other tendencies, such as looking down or being hunched over when we are sad can also be changed, and your mind can be tricked by making a conscious effort to look up and sit up.

Writing this article reminded me of a famous anonymous reading my father, who had a truly infectious smile, loved to quote:


A smile costs nothing, but gives much.
It enriches those who receive it, without making poorer those who give. 
It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is too poor but that he can be made rich by it. 
A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship.
It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble. 
Yet, it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away.
Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as no-one needs a smile as much as he who has no more to give.


Helping Others Helps Ourselves

On this day as well in our everyday lives, maybe we can all make a special effort to notice those around us, to spread the warmth of a smile to strangers and loved ones alike and deliver an act of kindness that will make such a difference to some-one. Helping others is a very effective way to create and strengthen social bonds, giving us a sense of belonging and building friendships.

When we give to others, it activates the areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. Altruistic behaviour releases the same endorphins in the brain as a simple smile, and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help.

Why some people prefer not to smile

Of course, smiling can be hard for some people. They may be feeling down, feel shy, have problems with confidence, or just not feel the need to smile. It may also be that they were raised in a family or culture where smiles weren’t readily offered. Maybe it’s these people who need a smile more than any other.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy

If you or someone you know is in need of support to find their smile again, please get in touch. I’m a Quest-trained cognitive hypnotherapist. This unique form of therapy encourages you to let go of any out-dated fears and negative beliefs, leading you to finding your purpose again and more able to view life through fresh eyes. The techniques are designed to help reveal the best you, enabling you to enjoy life and handle the inevitable difficult stuff in more positive ways.

We often don’t understand why we get locked into unhelpful behaviours, beliefs and habits which we know are reducing the quality of our lives. The answer is often because the unconscious holds fast to thought patterns long after they are useful. In fact, recent research has shown that the unconscious is responsible for about 90% of our daily behaviour.

How do we tackle this? By talking directly to the unconscious, Cognitive Hypnotherapy can work to reframe those out-of-date beliefs and memories, updating the system so that a fresh approach can be called upon instead, leading to more positive decisions – big and small – and a more fulfilling and fun existence. And hopefully, many more reasons to smile.

Happy World Smile Day!

Alison Scott

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