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Smile and be happy

PUBLISHED: 10:36 03 October 2018

Happy, smiley EU leaders, France's Emmanuel Macron, left, and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Frankfurt in 2017. Picture: Boris Roessler/dpa via AP

Happy, smiley EU leaders, France's Emmanuel Macron, left, and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Frankfurt in 2017. Picture: Boris Roessler/dpa via AP


It is World Smile Day on October 5 - does yours come naturally or will you need to practice in front of a mirror?

Smile and the world smiles with you, allegedly.

To complete the quote, by novelist Gordon Stanley West: “Cry and you cry alone”

It isn’t easy to adopt a natural smile for a photograph and today, with everyone knee-deep in selfies and Facebook pictures, we have the evidence.

I am continually amazed by the numbers of young women who don’t show their teeth when they smile − does this expression truly qualify as a smile?

And what about the professional smiles - presidents, prime ministers? What is behind the flash of white teeth - super-white in some cases?

World Smile Day started with Harvey Ball, who made the ubiquitous Smiley Face in 1963. In 1999 the first World Smile Day was held and had become the tradition every year since. After Harvey died in 2001, a foundation was created in his memory known as “Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation” with the motto “enhancing this world, one smile”. The Foundation is the official patron of World Smile Day, which isn’t only about the grin, it is about generosity; making people smile.

At we are given three ways to spot a fake smile.

The 19th century French neurologist Guillame Duchenne recognised that a genuine smile involves the use of two kinds of facial muscle. The real thing (a Duchenne smile) uses the zygomatic major muscle which enlarges the cheeks and shows the teeth, and the other element of the smile is the orbicularis oculi muscle, which contracts and forms wrinkles on the outer edge of your eyes. That is to say, the eyes close up as the cheeks move upwards... or less scientifically, the eyes twinkle eyes.

Whether this latter action is more difficult to identify in older people who already have wrinkly eyes, I cannot say. But the website offers these tips on how to identify a fake.

1. The absence of closed eyes. If someone is smiling with their mouth covered, you should still be able to tell from their eyes.

2. Absence of crow’s feet. If there are no little wrinkles by the eyes then the smile hasn’t reached. Having said that, I have permanent crow’s feet... but I’m not always smiling.

3. Visible bottom teeth. Smile muscles take the face upwards and therefore would be more likely to show the top teeth. However, this sign is not as conclusive because some people fake a smile without showing their bottom teeth and, conversely there are genuine bottom-teeth grins.

But apart from showing pleasure or amusement, a smile also has health benefits. Smiling is reckoned to be good for blood pressure, stress, immune function and pain relief. Perversely, some research shows that even a forced smile can help make you feel happier.

Meanwhile, although it is World Smile Day, we must bear in mind that there are parts of the world where smiles are not in such frequent use. American smile a lot but Russians tend not to smile when meeting strangers or when conducting business, believing it might be regarded as undue levity. Switzerland is rated as a happy nation and yet, I read, its people do not habitually walk around with smiles on their faces.

A BBC feature by Zaria Gorvett lists 19 types of smile adding that only six of them indicate happiness. The others include smiles of pain, embarrassment or discomfort. A smile might also convey contempt, anger or incredulity, or that we’re lying.

On World Smile Day, however, we’re only interested in the nice smiles.

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