Can a fake smile lift our spirits? Science answers

Can a fake smile lift our spirits? Science answers
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Research has shown the positive effects that a smile can have on creating positive thoughts. Researchers hope the findings could be useful in the field of mental health

A groundbreaking study from the University of South Australia has decided to answer whether a smile, even if hurried, can trigger positive and optimistic thoughts.

The findings are particularly interesting, especially with the daily stress on more and more people.

According to a study published in Experimental Psychology, a smile can make us more optimistic by simply moving our facial muscles.

The researchers assessed the effect of a smile on facial and body expressions, asking participants to smile by holding a pen between their teeth.

The experiment showed that the mobility of the facial muscles did not only change the expression of the face but also of the body as a whole towards the production of more positive emotions.

The lead researcher and expert on human and artificial intelligence, Dr Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos from the University of South Australia noted that the findings provide important insights into mental health.

“Research has shown that the movement of a smile stimulates the amygdala of the brain – the group of neurons that make up its emotional center – to release neurotransmitters that trigger positive thoughts. This is a great finding in the field of mental health. If we can trick the brain into perceiving stimuli as ‘joy’, then we can potentially use this mechanism to boost mental health.”

The study reiterated the findings, assessing the way people interpret a range of facial expressions (from frowning to smiling) with the pen between their teeth again. Visual material was then added to the experiment consisting of videos covering a wide range from slow and sad walking to more lively and happy.

Dr Marmolejo-Ramos noted the strong link between practice and perception. Even pretending to smile, as long as it activates the muscles according to the real thing, can lead to positive thoughts.