World Smile Day

A smile can go a long way; that is nothing really new. But did you know we have World Smile Day? I got curious about the why! Did we really become that frustrated and grumpy that we need a day to remind us to smile? Do we need a day to remind us to be friendlier to those around us, to be less self-centered and acknowledge others?

Those thoughts are not far off if you read the explanations on Wikipedia:

World Smile Day® is celebrated on the first Friday in the month of October every year. The idea of World Smile Day was coined and initiated by Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts. Harvey Ball is known to have created the Smiley Face in 1963.  The World’s first World Smile Day was held in the year 1999 and has been held annually since to “make as many people as possible aware of World Smile Day® by using the web, social media, and your help to encourage smiles and acts of kindness around the world.

I like the idea of reminding ourselves “to encourage smiles and acts of kindness around the world” but it saddens me at the same time, too. To think that we need a reminder to reach out like that! Harvey Ball started the World Smile Day several years back, yet it seems that we have to work on kindness today more so than ever. But is that really true that we lack so much kindness, or do we perhaps too easily point out and jump onto the negative? Perhaps we can use this day as a start to change that? After all, a smile goes up, not down! Should we not focus more into that direction, too? Into the uplifting, the good and positive things happening around us?

It is not always easy, but try it for today! When you walk around, pay real attention to the people around you! Do you see more smiles or more frowns? And what part can you play today to bring a smile to somebody around you?

  • A smile does not know nor need any border, language, religion or culture to connect.
  • A smile is a smile, all around the world!
  • A smile, so simple but do not underestimate what a long way it can go!

And don`t forget, a smile is not only visual we can as well hear it! Expressions do come across even if you are not face to face. So better be aware and lift those lips gently upwards when you are on the phone the next time!

But there is even more to a smile. It is not only how we give and receive smiles from others around us. On today`s World Smile Day I want to take it a bit further.

Smiling inward to yourself, ever thought about that? A “gentle smile” is a practice in the Mindfulness Meditation. But smiling as healing practice itself goes back to ancient cultures. It is very interesting to experience. And I do freely admit that I was very doubtful when this came up during my mindfulness training. It sounded somehow fake to me.

But if you think about it makes a lot of sense that a smile can have a deeper impact.  Our facial muscles are interlinked with the emotional part of the brain. Therefore even a tiny, soft, almost imperceptible “smile” does at times indeed help to feel less tense, less stressed and more at ease. A smile even if small helps to loosen the muscles in your jaw, the neck, the shoulders. I even feel my eyes and the “forehead frown” relax. It is like a positive overall process taking place in the facial area and spreading further throughout the body. A smile, a subtle but powerful tool!

But our daily life is not all around smiles, sometimes we do have a tough day, a hard time that leaves no space for a smile. And when we find ourselves in those moments we may even use a smile to hide sorrow, worries and concerns. A smile, to hide what is really going on!

So, if you encounter a smile, but the eyes do not smile or you feel the smile and the “I am okay” do not match the person`s appearance try to take a moment to go deeper. Ask how they are really doing. Take that moment to see if you can build a bridge to help the one who struggles. You may find that your smile has the power to make the façade crumble. A smile, it may become somebody else’s lifeline for that day!

Even if it is “all smiles” on today`s World Smile Day, don`t forget that every smile can have a different perspective. So, for this World Smile Day, and any other day, why not smile and:

  • Reach out with acts of kindness that make others put a smile on their face
  • Take time for yourself and smile inward
  • Go behind the smile and reach out to those who hide their struggles behind a smile

“Use your smile to change the world, but don`t let the world change your smile”  -unknown

Author: Ann-Katrin van Schie

I am Ann-Katrin, currently living in Tokyo, Japan with my family of five. I have been living abroad, including a repatriation, for over 15 years now. My own experiences and a lot of talks and discussions with others have inspired me to give back. To give support for an overall better wellbeing in various areas of life, especially when but not limited to, living abroad.

With my blog I hope to give others a source of inspiration to feel relaxed and content – or simply said to feel “at ease”!

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