(ADELAIDE, Australia) — You might as well admit it — months of pandemic quarantine has all of us feeling more than a little anxious, if not downright depressed. But the key to feeling better might be to fake being happy.
Researchers at the University of South Australia say they’ve discovered that the mere act of smiling can convince your brain that you are, in fact, happy.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, involved having test subjects hold a pen between their teeth. That simple act forced their facial muscles into a familiar smile pattern. That in turn altered not only facial expressions, but also body expressions.
“[W]e found that when you forcefully practice smiling, it stimulates the amygdala — the emotional center of the brain — which releases neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state,” said researcher Dr. Marmolejo-Ramos.
Put another way: “When your muscles say you’re happy, you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way,” says Marmolejo-Ramos, adding, ““A ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ approach could have more credit than we expect.”
Mind you, while it never hurts to smile, if you’re feeling significantly depressed a trip to a medical professional is likely your best first step to feeling better.
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