Learn to smile in your mask!

With faces covered to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, some of the facial cues that people rely on to connect with others—such as a smile that shows support—are also obscured.

This will be particularly true for North Americans, says Jeanne Tsai, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Culture and Emotion Lab, who value high energy emotions—such as excitement or enthusiasm, which are associated with big, open smiles—more than East Asians do…

…Research has shown that North Americans judge people with bigger smiles to be friendlier and more trustworthy than East Asians, so face coverings may make it harder for them to connect with strangers…

As people navigate a masked world, they’ll need to focus more on the eyes and voice to connect with those around them, a psychologist argues.

Just in case you wonder how “Har!” made it into my vocabulary?

There is nothing quite like a bit of spring sunshine for raising the spirits. It seems instantly to chase away the gloom that has descended during the dark winter days, and most of us will have been invigorated by this year’s Easter sunshine.

For those who live near the east coast, however, it was not a case of wall-to-wall sunshine. From time to time, there were unwelcome visits from an old friend, the haar

In Scotland, a haar is a kind of sea fog which creeps in from the North Sea to cover the area near the east coast when the rest of the country is basking in brilliant sunshine.

An east coast haar, pronounced like far, is a deeply depressing experience. It is not as if any warmth remains amidst the fog. Far from it. A haar is not only dark, dank and damp, but often so cold that it seems to penetrate your very bones. Those of us who live in haar country should be used to it by now, but it often catches us by surprise…

Sometimes the haar deals out even crueller treatment. We awake to rejoice in the brilliant sunshine – then the haar descends about mid-morning, just as we have assembled the picnic things and the beach umbrella. The sunshine that we were enjoying has been callously taken away from us…

The word haar originally referred to a cold easterly wind before it took on its cold fog meaning, and it is derived from a Low German and Middle Dutch word hare, meaning a biting cold wind. The biting cold part has stayed with us.

When I left the northeast coast of the United States – as my grandparents left the east coast of PEI – I discovered that a cold easterly wind, quite common in a New Mexico winter, often gives way to a clearing breeze from the northeast and eventually sunshine and warming. I have tempered what is a dour comment in my ethnic past with clear skies and sunlight – which is after all a sign of hope.

Har has become reasonably positive – with a remembrance of irony.