The Good News of a Smile

There is more Good News in the World than Bad

STATE MUTUAL, an American Life Insurance company, had a problem. They had recently purchased several other insurance companies and a huge morale problem had developed as they were trying to integrate the various cultures.

Harvey Ball

To help them solve these problems, State Mutual contacted Harvey Ball, a Worchester, Massachusetts advertising and graphic arts designer.

After discussing possible solutions for the company’s morale problems together, Harvey sat down at his drawing board and in 10 minutes came up with

The records available do not record if  improved morale, but we know State Mutual made many posters and thousands of pins displaying their new icon.

has since proliferated arguably millions of times and brought smiles and a feeling of happiness to millions of people around the world.

This was in 1963. The bill for Harvey’s creation was $45. In spite of its success, neither Harvey or State Mutual bothered to trademark or copyright the design.

While the symbol above is the generally accepted version of the origin of  some have disputed it and claimed they were the originators, including two American Hallmark Card shop owners by the names of Bernard and Murray Spain.

While acknowledging Harvey Ball’s design, in 1971 the two brothers used  on some cards, took credit for creating it and copyrighted it.*

At about the same time, across the Atlantic in France a journalist by the name of Franklin Loufrani registered smiley in Europe for commercial use and started to license the image, calling it “Smiley.” However, when they tried to register the design in the U.S., Loufrani ran into Walmart who were using a similar smiling face as a part of their corporate logo.

10 years and many legal bills later, an out of court settlement was reached No one seems to know what the agreement says, but   is being used by Walmart.

Harvey Ball’s family found all of this corporate trademarking and wrangling distasteful and started a charitable organization called The World Smile Foundation to honour Harvey Ball and his creation.
The foundation now licenses  and uses the proceeds to fund children’s charitable organizations who have difficulty raising money.**

The Foundation also created World Smile Day which is held every year on the first Friday in October. During this day the Foundation encourages everyone to make someone else smile and perform an act of kindness.

 or some variation of it, is now used quite liberally which is a good thing since this simple black smile on a cheery yellow background has brought smiles and good feelings to millions of people with millions of more to come.

As good as  is, it does not come close to the power of a real smile. Psychologists, researchers, scientists and others alike tell us a real and warm smile creates endorphins in our bodies, bringing with it pleasant feelings plus many health and related benefits. They include: 

  1. Elevating and improving our mood.
  2. Makes us look younger and more attractive.
  3. Helps us reduce stress.
  4. Boosts our immune system.
  5. Reduces blood pressure and pain.
  6. Makes us more likeable and easier to relate to.
  7. Relaxes us and reduces our anxiety.
  8. Helps us become or stay positive.
  9. People who smile seem to be kinder, warmer and more approachable.
  10. Can improve our endurance.
  11. Possibly helps us live longer and best of all.
  12. Smiling is contagious.

Most of us do not need a psychologist to tell us the benefits of smiling. We just need to be aware of our own feelings when we smile or watch someone else smile, such as a baby.

Smiling is a natural behaviour. We are told babies smile up to 400 times per day, starting at two months of age. Adults, on average, only smile 20 times per day…women more than men. Very happy adults smile 40 times

Charlie Chaplin

We are also constantly reminded about the effects of smiling with expressions like ,”GRIN AND BEAR IT,” or, “Put on a HAPPY FACE,” or Charlie Chaplin’s insightful comment which most of us have likely benefited from, “It only takes a split second to smile and forget, yet to someone that needed it, it can last a lifetime.”

Not every country and culture reacts to smiles the same way. Russians, Swiss and Japanese people rarely smile. Thai people and Greeks are big smilers. Many people believe the Greeks smile at almost anything, including when they feel awkward or to get out of trouble.

North Americans generally view a smile as a sign of happiness and positive feelings. Smiles can be spontaneous or intentional and can be caused by many positive happenings including: seeing a friend, helping someone, receiving a compliment, solving a problem or accomplishing something.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

According to Mark Stibich, PhD and Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, there are three primary types of smiles. All send messages. There are:

  1. Reward smiles that convey approval, happiness, contentment and other positive feelings.
  2. Affiliation smiles that convey positive intentions, trustworthiness, compassion, social connection and belonging and,
  3. Dominance smiles that sends a message which may convey contempt, disgust, or superiority.

Regardless of the type of smile or if it is spontaneous or intentional, the good news is most smiles convey happiness and pleasant feelings.

WE all owe tremendous thanks to Harvey Ball, the Spain brothers, Frank Loufrani and their images, and in particular to everyone in the world who smiles and lights up our day!!

Till next time,

Chris Snyder

* The Spain brothers also created the expression HAVE A NICE DAY

** The World Smile Foundation licenses   in North America, the U.K., Europe, China and the Far East. Frank Loufrani licenses   in 100 other countries.

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