The smiley emoticon may seem a little, well, overused and in your face, but the sign of good times and good spirits has a long and rich history. Some say Smiley Face started in 1963, when graphic artist Harvey Ross Ball was paid $45 by the State Mutual Life Assurance Co. to create a graphic that would cheer up its dispirited employees. But the owners of the Smiley Company (no relation to Ball) claim the first known record of the image is a 4,500-year-old carved likeness found in a cave in France.
Whatever its origins, there’s no disputing that Smiley has become a part of your everyday life — and it occasionally can elicit a smile from even the grumpiest Gus. That might be because just seeing a smile stimulates the brain’s reward system, and, according to U.K. researchers, a smile is more powerful a positive jolt than eating 2,000 happiness-inducing chocolate bars!
Now nutritionists are using the power of Smiley to persuade kids to choose healthier foods in school cafeterias, and that’s something to smile about! Researchers in Cincinnati found that just putting Smiley on various foods boosted vegetable purchases 62 percent, fruit 20 percent and plain milk purchases 500 percent.
So talk to your school’s lunch program about using Smiley decorations on fruits, veggies and unsweetened beverages. And at home, have your kids place Smiley stickers on serving bowls for salads, veggies and fruit, and put them on the table. Then, don’t say a word (how nice not to have to nag); just watch what happens!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit sharecare.com.