World Smile Day: To smile or not to smile?


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On the first Friday of October, the world celebrates World Smile Day. Which nations smile more often, and is this related to their well-being? Where does Ukraine rank in this rating? How was the rating compiled, and why is the smiley yellow in color?

Which Countries Smile More Often?

In this research, countries in Latin America tend to smile more frequently. Brazil takes the first place, followed by Nicaragua and Colombia. The Philippines, ranking 8th, is the only non-Latin American country in the top 10.

The United Kingdom is positioned at 62nd place in the ranking, a bit higher than Greece at 69th place and considerably higher than most Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE (115), Bahrain (117), and Saudi Arabia (119).

If we look at our favorite Cyprus, it’s not a nation known for frequent smiling. It doesn’t even make it into the top 50 in the Smile Survey. Cyprus falls behind Lebanon (25th place), Egypt (24), and Turkey (39). According to the research, Cyprus ranks 55th among the world’s smiling nations, with a total of 124 countries evaluated.

How Was the Research Conducted?

The research was based on the analysis of over 150 million Instagram posts from 6,000 cities worldwide, determining a “smile score.” This was calculated by the frequency of smiles on the residents’ faces in Instagram photos, awarding more points for genuine smiles. There are potential limitations to this approach, as people typically smile for photos, right? Moreover, how can one determine if the smiles are genuine? Nevertheless, the research attempted to account for these factors, evaluating the shape, size, and openness of the smiles. It was believed that a genuine smile can be seen in the eyes, even if the mouth is closed!

It’s worth noting that this research was conducted in 2014, so the rankings might have changed since then.

Where Does Ukraine Rank in the Smile Ranking?

Ten years ago, Ukraine ranked 36th in the ranking of countries that smile more. Considering the ongoing conflict, this is likely no longer the case, unfortunately.

Why Do We Smile?

A smile is a complex phenomenon involving many areas of the brain, nerves, muscles, and chemical processes. On average, a person smiles about 20 times a day; children smile more than adults, women more than men, and people in warm climates smile more frequently than those in cold countries (hello, Brazil!).

It’s believed that smiling reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and can even predict the future – one study found that people who smiled in childhood photos were more likely to have a happy marriage later in life!

Smiles in Different Areas of Life

Employees who provide services “with a smile” are often perceived as more willing to help, leading to increased customer satisfaction (and higher profits!). Politicians often smile from scandal to scandal, knowing that people are biologically inclined to trust those who smile. More than one study has shown that we are more generous with our money when approached with a smile.

During the Cold War, Soviet media often highlighted the Americans’ propensity to smile, anticipating that it was a technique used to disarm tense Soviet politicians. Today, for residents of the United States, smiles are more a symbol of respect and a means to improve relationships. At the same time, various studies suggest that in the East, people reserve their smiles for genuine moments of joy with close friends and family.

Smiles and Happiness

Smiles don’t always indicate happiness, as can be seen in the case of Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun ranks 54th in the World Happiness Index, despite happiness being considered a factor in longevity. Japan is one of the countries with a high life expectancy. Yet, in the smile ranking, Japan is near the bottom.

Smiles as Symbols

Clearly, a smile is not necessarily an indicator of happiness, but originally, the “smiley face” was intended to represent happiness. This universal symbol of joy and positivity was adapted for the digital age in the form of an emoji, and it’s now one of the most recognizable symbols in the world.

The Smiley and World Smile Day

This simple yellow circle (yellow being the color most associated with happiness) has been around since 1963. American artist Harvey Ball was commissioned by an insurance company to create a design that would boost employee morale. Subsequently, the symbol gained widespread popularity, and its creator, upset about the commercialization of his work, proposed the idea of World Smile Day. The concept was for each of us to dedicate one day a year to smiles, regardless of politics, beliefs, or origin. Harvey believed that smiles could bring happiness. In 1999, the world celebrated its first World Smile Day.

World Smile Day Today

Since then, World Smile Day has been celebrated annually on the first Friday of October, with global events aimed at spreading smiles and kindness. On this day, Instagram is flooded with photos tagged #worldsmileday.

In Conclusion

I’m not sure what comes first: happiness followed by a smile, or a smile as the source of happiness. There’s also no definitive answer on whether smiling extends life. What I do know for sure is that travel makes you happier, and life is brighter. Do you agree?

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