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‘There is no greater pleasure than eating with my family’: what makes you smile? | Brighter mornings

From a big beam to the littlest lift at the corners of your mouth, smiling is infectious in the best possible way. Which is happy news, as new research shows smiling can really improve our mood, spurring a chemical reaction in our brains. As adults, we smile 20-40 times a day – finding joy in small moments that matter is as important as taking care of your teeth and gums. Here, six people share what makes them smile.

‘I’m smiling just thinking about my dog’

Hazel Gardiner, 41, floral artist
“My dog, Ringo, has made me smile from the moment we met. He was the puppy in a lively litter of goldendoodles who came straight over, desperate to be near me. Ringo is really loving but has some funny quirks. He’s not scared of lightning, but if he sees a luggage trolley he freaks out. He’s also a ball stealer at the park. He can hold three in his mouth, so you need an extra ball to get him to drop them. There have been times when I’ve walked him in the morning and been late for work because he won’t drop someone else’s ball. Now, we take five with us just in case. If I’m working on my laptop, Ringo will nudge my hand with his nose for a cuddle. I’m smiling just thinking about him. I’ve made it my mission to look after my teeth and, as a result, I’m a big smiler.”

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Sukhi Wahiwala, 45, small business coach ‘I love listening to stories from my dad’s youth’

‘I love listening to stories from my dad’s youth’

Sukhi Wahiwala, 45, small business coach
“In the Sikh faith we believe that, at a certain point, the roles reverse and children look after their parents. Sadly, two years ago, my mother passed away. Helping my father deal with the loss after 65 years of marriage has been challenging, but positive too. My four children call him Papaji. Because we’re so close, each one of us has been able to be a part of my mum for him. I’m my father’s sounding board. I love listening to stories from his youth. We often talk about my mum’s encyclopedic knowledge and we laugh when I prompt him in the same way she would, bringing his memory back to life.”

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Nick Gaskell, 35, mortgage adviser ‘I smile with more confidence now that I look after my teeth’

‘I smile with more confidence now that I look after my teeth’

Nick Gaskell, 35, mortgage adviser
“I’ve always struggled with my teeth. I have weak gums from lack of brushing as a child, and my two front teeth cross over. Now I pay serious attention to cleaning my teeth thoroughly and I smile with more confidence. And it shows when I’m doing what I love – gardening. My girlfriend and I recently bought a flat in a mansion block in north London, complete with an overgrown garden. Suddenly, I’m that person who watches gardening tutorials on YouTube, invests in fairy lights and visits the garden centre at the weekend. Now I look out of my kitchen window and see lavender, pieris and my favourite blue hydrangea. There’s a huge sense of achievement.”

‘There is no greater pleasure than eating with my family’

Christine Brown, 59, housing officer
“My oldest daughter had lots of allergies as a child, so I’ve always made everything from scratch since then. Food is a big part of our family life. I find cooking very therapeutic, but there is no greater pleasure in the world than sitting down to eat with my family and seeing their faces light up.”

‘Remembering when we met brings me joy’

Mariatu Turay-Akar, 42, owner of fashion brand Gitas Portal
“I feel so fortunate that my marriage is still, after 20 years and five children, full of love and constant laughter. We’re playful together; he makes me feel young. I often forget I’m in my 40s. Remembering when we met brings me joy – though, actually, I wasn’t interested at first. I assumed that we wouldn’t have much in common, but he turned out to be the most witty, charming man, and loves the theatre – just like I do. I smile most when I’m around him.”

‘My daughter’s fascination with my braces makes me smile’

Keri Tebbit, 32, course development manager
“When my four-year-old daughter first saw my braces, she said: ‘Wow!’ like they were the coolest thing ever. I smile every time I remember it. Phoebe’s so funny – she gets excited about the most everyday things. Like her flashing toothbrush: she mostly chewed it at first, but now times me for two minutes while I clean her teeth.”

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Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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