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Smile! Science says faking a happy face raises your spirits
When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you…
Celebrities from Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra to Michael Bublé and Katy Perry have produced hits praising the power of a smile to lift your spirits, make you feel better and make the world a better place.
But is there actually any real, scientific proof to the premise behind these songs, or is it all just blind hope and smoke and mirrors?
Thanks to a team at the University of South Australia, we know the answer…
How moving your facial muscles can trick your mind
The study, published in Experimental Psychology, set out to analyze the effect of a “covert smile” on perceptions of happiness.
What did the team define as a covert smile?
Well, they didn’t actually ask participants in the study to smile. Instead, they had them hold a pen between their teeth, forcing their facial muscles to replicate the movement of a smile. This way they were able to correlate the results directly to the movement of facial muscles.
And, the results showed that activity of your facial muscles can actually generate more positive emotions.
The team discovered that when you forcefully practice smiling, it stimulates the amygdala — the emotional center of your brain — which releases neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state.
Related: The real health benefits of watching cat videos
In other words, the act of smiling can trick your mind into being more positive, simply by moving your facial muscles.
As lead researcher Dr. Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos puts it, “When your muscles say you’re happy, you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way.”
Timely research for a COVID-19 world
And truthfully, this study couldn’t have been conducted at a better time.
With the world in crisis amid COVID-19 and the corresponding rise of anxiety and depression we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic, knowing how to elevate your spirits and boost your happiness without turning to prescription medications couldn’t be timelier…
Even better, all you have to do is smile!
But what if you simply don’t feel like smiling?
Well, the researchers recommend a “fake it ’til you make it” approach.
So, whether you feel like it or not, look in the mirror and put a smile on your face. And if you need a little help, take a page out of the study and hold a pen between your teeth to simulate a smile.
Before you know it, you could just feel like smiling more often and the world can smile with you.
To learn more about smiling and how it makes you happier and healthier, check out this article. And for even more help in feeling your best, try this trick to becoming a happier you in just 10 minutes per day.
When you’re smiling, the whole world really does smile with you — EurekAlert!