9 reasons to smile on World Smile Day

Culture

The eyes have it

Perhaps one of the world's most famous smiles belongs to actress Julia Roberts, whose broad grin often appears genuine. Researchers say that there are two types of smiles: the forced and the real. Telling a faux smile apart from the real thing requires looking at the corners of the eyes; if the so-called laugh lines aren't laughing with, chances are the smile is put on.

Culture

The secret behind the smile

Although some experts have said that it is more acceptable in our contemporary society for women to smile than men, in portraits from centuries past, smiles were rather rare. One of the most talked-about smiles in art, captured in the Mona Lisa, is so sly it's hard to distinguish just what the muse is thinking: Is that a smug smirk? A knowing smile? A seductive gesture?

Culture

'The Smile Revolution'

Why don't people smile in historical portraits? Historian Colin Jones explores that in his book, "The Smile Revolution in 18th Century Paris," in which he argues that a smile's meaning reflects a cultural mood. Prior to the French Revolution, a smile might have been interpreted as condescension, whereas in the midst of the revolution, it may have been seen as a sign of a more egalitarian society.

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More than a diplomatic grin

As Jones argues, a smile's meaning depends on the time and place it occurs – what is socially acceptable in any given moment. In Germany, known for its somber mood and dry humor, a smile from a passerby may not come as readily as in other places but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Just look at pictures of Merkel: normally a poker face, she has been known to let a few real smiles slip.

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Hidden motives

One of Germany's most eccentric monarchs, King Ludwig II of Bavaria is never seen smiling in portraits. While some have said his grimace was the consequence of an enduring love for sweets combined with a lack of dental care in the 19th century, it is also believed he committed suicide so there's no telling the truth that lay behind his grim facial gestures.

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Getting the whole world to smile

It's hard not to smile when the jazz king Louis Armstrong croons, "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you." One Swedish study found that it was, in fact, nearly impossible for participants to frown when being told to smile, almost as if making a happy face was intuitive.

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'Peace begins with a smile'

Known for her work with the downtrodden in Calcutta, Mother Teresa remains a symbolic figure for those looking to do good in the world. That can begin quite simply: "Peace begins with a smile," she said, and experts agree that a smile can shift the mood between two people. "Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing," she also said.

Culture

Grin and bear it

As it's become common for strangers to tell women they should smile, women have fought back, saying this unwanted advice is an affront to their personal agency. After all, strangers have no way of knowing the reason behind an unhappy look. While not every day is occasion to smile, Marilyn Monroe advised people to "Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there's so much to smile about."

Culture

Is laughter contagious?

More than just a series of stretching and breathing exercises, yoga philosophy is said to help people through difficult times by keeping them focused on the moment. In laughing yoga, that moment comes when a group of people gathers for a laughing session. Practitioners say it's contagious and once the laughter begins, moods are lightened. The aim: to bring greater joy to participants' lives.

Perhaps the most universal facial expression, a smile can reveal a lot about a person's feelings. Though a smile may not always mean a person is happy, research has given us numerous reasons to plant one on anyway.