Here’s what really happens when you smile

Before their August release of Imploding the Mirage, alt rock band The Killers were known for their indie take on faking it till you make it, “Smile Like You Mean It.” Now it turns out there’s science to back up that tune: New research from the University of South Australia found that the simple act of smiling can trigger your brain into taking on a positive mindset (via Experimental Psychology).

Study participants in one group forced their facial muscles into a smile by holding a pen in their teeth. When shown a series of images of facial expressions and videos of body movements, the participants were more likely to interpret them as positive or happy than the group without the forced smile. “In our research we found that when you forcefully practice smiling, it stimulates the amygdala — the emotional centre of the brain — which releases neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state,” says lead researcher Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos (via Newswise).

When you smile, it actually makes you feel happier

Basically, even forcing a smile will help you experience a flood of those feel-good hormones. “For mental health, this has interesting implications. If we can trick the brain into perceiving stimuli as ‘happy’, then we can potentially use this mechanism to help boost mental health,” said Marmolejo-Ramos.

With the CDC reporting that 40 percent of U.S. adults have been struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues associated with COVID-19, and that younger adults, minorities, essential workers, and unpaid caregivers (we’re looking at you, parents) are disproportionately affected, the findings of this study can and should be put to use immediately. Draw some inspiration from Katy Perry and smile at yourself in the mirror or try flashing a grin at your next Zoom meeting to help spread cheer.”A ‘fake it ’til you make it’ approach could have more credit than we expect,” Marmolejo-Ramos says. “When your muscles say you’re happy, you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way.”

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