Smile to improve mental health
In May 2020, a scientific study showed that simply forcing your facial muscles to smile can make you happier.
Looking at the bright side
The scientific journal Experimental Psychology published on May 11, 2020, the results of an experiment conducted by researchers from the University of South Australia. They try to demonstrate that muscular activity provokes (and is provoked by) emotions. The team, therefore, asked participants to hold a pen between their teeth to force them to reproduce the contractions of a smile. They are then asked to evaluate the positivity of videos, such as “sad” or “happy” walks, as visual stimuli. A second group without a pen had to judge the images in the same way.
The results are conclusive. Subjects with a pen in their mouth judge a situation as happy more easily than others. The forced smile stimulates the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, which sends signals encouraging a more positive state of mind and body.
“When your muscles tell you you’re happy, you are more likely to see the world around you in a positive way,” said Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, author of the study
Several scientists have already demonstrated the influence of muscles on emotions and vice versa. The novelty of the study lies in not only facial but also bodily responses to positivity. In short, a simple joyful gait and a big smile can make you physically happy.
Treating mental illnesses with a smile
This discovery may also have implications for how to treat anxiety, phobias, or depression. Australian researchers have demonstrated the crucial role of the amygdala in transmitting muscle signals into emotional signals. They have thus proven the link between action and perception, which makes “fake it until you make it” therapeutic approaches credible. Self-persuasion can open a new path in medicine. In the meantime, let’s try to keep smiling high!
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