Speaking of Joy: Little Pumpkin Smiles

Halloween is this week and it’s one of my favorite holidays.  

I love the crisp, cool air and the sound of fallen leaves as the wind scrapes them across the sidewalk.

I love the sound of my doorbell ringing followed by hushed giggles and the rustling of paper bags.  

And I love what I see when I open that door.  The real deal happy smiles of little pumpkins dressed up like Hello Kitty, Batman and Minnie Mouse.   Their joy is so open, their excitement so simple.  “Look-it, a purple Tootsie Pop!”   “Ohhhh, pink bubble gum!”     “Mommy, I got Skittles!”

 And standing just beyond the porch, the moms and dads of these little pumpkins have that same real deal happy, bright smile.   Even when it’s cold and snowing as it sometimes is here in Denver on Halloween. 

So what is the real deal smile?  

Famed French neurologist Dr. Guillaume Duchenne did extensive study of facial expressions and his research found that two muscles create a genuine smile.   First, the Zygomatic major near our cheeks – which we can quickly engage.   And second, the orbilaris oculi near our eyes – which research has found is impossible for most people to willingly engage.

So in other words, we can easily create a fake smile – but the real deal?  That’s about what’s inside our heart. 

Duchenne said it best in 1862 when he wrote “the emotion of frank joy is expressed on the face by the combined contraction of the zygomaticus major muscle and the orbicularis oculi.  The first obeys the will, but the second is only put in play by the sweet emotions of the soul.”

That is such a beautiful description.

And for me, it leads to a question.    Can smiling, even if fake, make you happier?

Linda Sterling Sease, Speaking of Joy

Well the research says yes, yes it can.   Charles Darwin, and later American philosopher and psychologist William James, both suggested that facial expressions were not just a by-product of emotions but could actually influence emotions, too.

And there’s been quite a bit of research since Darwin and James, involving, interestingly enough, pencils and chopsticks.  And that research indicates the same. 

It seems that not only does smiling make you more attractive and welcoming, it can also make you happier.   And it’s free, too leaving you plenty of money for Tootsie Pops, bubble gum and Skittles - now that’s a lot to smile about!

Until next week, I hope your life is full of joy and gratitude – and I hope you have many sweet little pumpkins ringing your doorbell this Saturday night.


Linda Sterling Sease is a professional speaker, career coach & writer on the power of joy to transform companies, homes and communities.  To explore how Linda can work with your organization, call 303-319-5829 or email her at Linda at SterlingSease.com.