What makes you smile?

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

How do you sign off your texts? Your name or an ‘x’ maybe. How about a smiley emoji? Most of us enhance our text talk with a smattering of emojis and the smiley face is probably the most popular. The little yellow face is so commonplace now that it’s easy not to realise that this little creation is responsible for World Smile Day which is this Friday.

2853faa64d4ddd3f03fad9c39eadb4b9--teeth-emoji-smiley-happySmiley face is now 54 years old! Contrary to the film, it was not invented by Forrest Gump but by graphic artist Harvey Ross Ball in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1963. He was asked to design something to raise morale among employees of an insurance company which had suffered a combination of mergers and acquisitions and the staff were unhappy. Ball took just 10 minutes to create Smiley face and was paid $45. It’s unknown if it had the desired effect on the employees but the smiley was an immediate success with customers and thousands of smiley buttons were produced.

Thirty six years later, Ball felt that the original intention behind his creation had been lost and had the idea that for at least one day a year people should smile at each other and be kind to each other. World Smile Day has been on the first Friday of October since 1999.

He was onto something too, probably without realising. In Psychology Today, Sarah Stevenson wrote
that research on Emotion and Social Behaviour shows us that a smile is contagious, can make us appear more attractive to others and a smile can make us and those around us feel better.

Smiling triggers the release of tiny protein-like molecules called neuropeptides which allow neurons to communicate and help messaging to the whole body when we’re excited, sad, angry, depressed or happy. Neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when you smile too. These are the body’s feel good chemicals so a smile can help you relax and lower your heart rate and blood pressure! E. Able and M Kruger’s research even suggests that smiling can help us live longer.

So how is smiling contagious? Is it just good manners to return a smile? Well, while it is undoubtedly polite it’s also something we do automatically. The cingulate cortex is an automatic response area of the brain which is responsible for making your face smile when you’re happy or automatically smiling back at someone. A Swedish study tested the theory by showing subjects pictures of different emotions: joy, anger, fear and surprise. They were told to frown when they saw someone smiling in the pictures but the researchers discovered that the facial expressions of the subjects directly imitated those in the picture and frowning at the smiles was difficult and required conscious effort.

But… what if you have a condition that physically inhibits your smiling or makes it painful? Your brain is sending your facial muscles signals to smile yet there is something preventing that smile from forming, or forming in a way that you’re not happy with either through appearance or because it hurts.

Various conditions can physically affect our smile.

Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy affects the muscles around the eyes and mouth. It progresses slowly but patients may have difficulty blowing a whistle, blowing up a balloon or drinking through a straw. It’s hard to smile or pucker up or get much strength in the mouth.

Bruxism is excessive teeth grinding and jaw clenching and can cause headaches, worn or broken teeth, facial and jaw pain and earache. It’s hard to control as sufferers often find it happens while they’re sleeping. Pain in your face is definitely enough to stop you smiling. Long term bruxism can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder. This is more often (thankfully!) known as TMJ or TMD.

This joint hinges your jaw together with your skull and gives you the ability to chew, yawn, speak, laugh and smile so, when there’s a problem with it, these normal functions become difficult and these debilitating symptoms impact everyday life. TMJ can also cause headaches, earache, pressure behind the eyes, tension in the jaw and jaw locking.

Trauma at birth, such as a forceps delivery, and torque in the pelvis can also contribute to difficulties smiling.

What is the answer then? Well, you can put up with it or you can do the sensible thing and get yourself treated. Myofascial Release Treatment can help with all these things so therefore we’re very happy to announce that Holisticare makes you smile!

Don’t Forget
Autumn Offer Who do you know who needs our help? Refer a new patient to Holisticare before November 5th and they will benefit from £20 off their first appointment. We will give you a £20 voucher towards your own treatment to say thank you. The referred patient appointments much be taken before 5th November. Call 01279 718331