World Smile Day has got us grinning!

The first Friday of October is World Smile Day. It’s a relatively new addition to the repertoire of internationally recognised days, but getting popular rather quickly – thanks to the much used and loved smiley face.

Let’s peek into the history behind this day. In 1963, Harvey Ball (a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts) created the smiley face symbol for a local company. However, neither he nor the company thought to copyright the design, which has left its precise origin open – a Seattle designer named David Stern also claims its authorship.

While the smiley’s origins may stay disputed, the extent of its popularity do not. The symbol exploded in popularity in the world of pop culture. Throughout the years, the smiley has become one of the most popular symbols in the world. It has been used in cartoons, comics and for political movements. We’ve all seen it being used on clothing, comic books, coffee mugs, pins, and more. Did you know that 470 iterations of smileys were made for internet emoticons in 1999?

World Smile Day was officially recognised in 1999 to stay close to the initial intent behind the symbol: goodwill and cheer. Celebrating the day was simple and effective; people would use the day to smile, and to perform small acts of kindness to help others smile. Doing something extra outside of your everyday life for other people can have a positive effect on both you and the community. It doesn’t have to be huge; think complimenting a stranger on their outfit, making a cup of tea for a busy co-worker, or cooking a meal for your partner.

In case you needed any more motivation to do a good deed, studies have shown that performing acts of kindness can increase your own life satisfaction (Buchanan and Bardi, 2010; Rowland and Curry, 2019). Furthermore, the act of giving to others has a positive impact on wellbeing and peer acceptance (which is associated with important academic and social outcomes) in children (Layous et al., 2012). Kindness benefits us all!

Why not focus your act of kindness on a charity? This year has been incredibly hard on charitable organisations, with one in ten UK charities facing bankruptcy Whilst fundraising activities have been put on hold, demand for their services has soared, leaving many charities struggling. There are lots of ways you can help: by donating money, fundraising via a bake sale or virtual race, or volunteering your time if you can.

Current circumstances have had a major impact on all of our lives, but they may also have created an opportunity to be kind. If you are able, why not reach out in your community to help the vulnerable or elderly? This could include picking up a prescription, food shopping, or simply providing a sympathetic ear over a socially distanced cuppa. You could arrange a virtual pub quiz for your friends or family to bring about smiles all round.

Of course, don’t forget about yourself and take a moment to think about what makes you smile. Use this day to indulge in your heart’s desire. Or at least, make a plan to do what you’ve always wanted to do but kept pushing back because other aspects of life take over. Finding your smile might involve a few hours with a book, treating yourself to your favourite food, or simply catching up on sleep. Be kind to yourself, as well as to others. Here’s a truly heart-warming article about people doing good deeds for others; perhaps we can all be inspired by these extraordinary examples of kindness this World Smile Day.

Help one person to smile today, and you may find yourself smiling along with them!

Supporting information

The official World Smile Day website:

Buchanan, K. and Bardi, A. (2010) Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction.

The Journal of Social Psychology. 150.3:235-237.

Layous, K. et al. (2012) Kindness counts: Prompting prosocial behavior in preadolescents boosts peer acceptance and well-being. PLOS One. 7.12: e51380.

Rowland, L. and Curry, O. S. (2019) A range of kindness activities boost happiness. The Journal of Social Psychology 159.3:340-343.

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