You are never fully dressed without a smile. How true. God in his wisdom gave us this ability to ensure life stays positive and we spread cheer. Like cute little Azlan, my neighbour, all of 18 months, who comes scampering to our home, winning our hearts and minds with his beatific smile, which buoys us with a sudden burst of energy. Or like my good friend Manohar, who though beset with vicissitudes in life, laughs, his shoulders heaved in conspirational mode. But then there are some people who seem to feel that they are perennially carrying the burden of the entire universe on their frail shoulders, with hung faces and mouth ready to complain at the slightest excuse. Oh, how they spread negativity.
Defining a ‘smile’
So let us consider some definitions of a smile. ’Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts’, says Paramahansa Yogananda, while to Tom Wilson, ‘A smile is happiness you’ll find right under your nose.’
‘A warm smile is the universal language of kindness’ to William Arthur Ward, but Thomas Paine avers that ‘The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.’ ‘A smile is a curve that sets everything straight’ insists Phyllis Diller and Andy Rooney is sure that ‘If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.’
‘We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do’, Mother Teresa insisted and Anna Lee is positivity defined when she says, ‘Remember, even though the outside world might be raining, if you keep on smiling the sun will soon show its face and smile back at you.’
Now let’s see what a smile is actually?
A smile is a facial expression formed primarily by flexing the muscles at the sides of the mouth. Smiles performed without the eye contraction can be perceived as ‘fake’. A smile is an expression which can denote pleasure, sociability, happiness, or amusement. It is unlike the involuntary expression of anxiety or a grimace.
While a smile is a means of communication throughout the world, it differs between different cultures, with some using smiles to convey confusion or embarrassment. According to primatologist Signe Preuschoft, a smile can be traced back over 30 million years of evolution to a “fear grin” stemming from monkeys and apes who often used barely clenched teeth to portray to predators that they were harmless. The smile may have evolved differently among species and especially among humans. Some view the smile as an effect display that can communicate feelings such as love, happiness, pride, contempt, and embarrassment.
And now social smiling
Social smiling normally develops between 6 and 8 weeks of age. It has a favourable influence upon others and makes one likable and more approachable. Smiling and laughter have different functions. Smiling paves the way to laughter. Female smiles are appealing to heterosexual males, increasing physical attractiveness and enhancing sex appeal. Recent research however indicates a man’s smile may or may not be most effective in attracting heterosexual women, and that facial expressions such as pride or even shame might be more effective.
Talking of the animal world, the exposure of teeth, though bearing a resemblance to a smile and implying happiness, often conveys other signals. The baring of teeth is often used as a threat or warning display like a snarl or a sign of submission. For chimpanzees, it can also be a sign of fear. Barbary macaques demonstrate an open mouth display as a sign of playfulness, which likely has similar roots and purposes as the human smile.
Smile, and the world smiles with you
We even celebrate the first Friday of October as World Smile Day. Coined and initiated by Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Massachusetts, better known as the creator of the Smiley Face in 1963.
The world’s first World Smile Day was held in the year 1999 and has been held annually since. Some days, it’s easy to smile. You wake up to the sounds of chirping birds, the warm glow of the morning sun cradling your face, as you sip your hot coffee luxuriously. You are refreshed, excited, and anxious to create and collaborate. But sometimes you wake up to chaos, hit snags and bumps and roadblocks and things seem to fall apart. Well, friends that is life. When things go wrong, you can fall down or look up. You can shut down or wake up, all over again, starting from right where you stand. You can accept that the days won’t always look bright, but commit to finding something worth smiling about.
How do you do that? Lori Deschene, founder of the popular Tiny Buddha blog with 50 million readers, has a few ideas….