Edinburgh is a good place to try out the pencil smile. The Scottish city has a reputation for being home to a large number of unhappy people. BBC’s Michael Mosley took his program, Pleasure and Pain, onto the city’s streets and had people hold a pencil between their teeth. The result? It made them feel happier. (See the video below.)
Research backs up the effect of "facial feedback". You can read about some of the studies here:
- Smile Your Way Out of Stress?
- “Just smile, you’ll feel better!” Will you? Really?
- How does facial feedback modulate emotional experience?
- The Facial Feedback Hypothesis in Human Interaction
When trying to help a child navigate around a bump in the road, telling her about happiness research won't boost her spirits, and sticking a pencil between her teeth may not always be a good idea. A child-friendly alternative has just been published by Judy Edward. I’ve had a chance to follow the progress of her Calvin Can series from idea to publication of the first book. Now I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Calvin Can - Be Happy explores the ancient concept of setting intentions, and empowers children with the knowledge that they alone will make the decisions that affect their reality. With simple language, bright and amusing illustrations and entertaining situations she gently guides young readers to the realization that happiness is an inside job - that they themselves have the ability to decide to embrace each day with joy.
Adults often have to work at embracing each day with joy so giving children powerful but simple techniques at an early age sounds like a recipe for a happier adulthood. Parents, grandparents, educators - and, of course, children - will enjoy both the very real antics of young Calvin and the wise and loving advice of his grandmother, Mama.
Whether shared with a single child or a classroom, Calvin Can - Be Happy is a book sure to spark discussion. And it will be fun watching children try out their smiles.
Text & book