Your facial expressions don’t just reflect how you feel, but they contribute to how you feel too.
Research from the University of South Australia in 2020 confirms this!
The act of smiling (even if you’re faking it) tricks your mind into happiness. It’s all about the messages being sent rom the facial muscles to the brain.
Researchers made half of the participants in the study hold a pen between their teeth, forcing their facial muscles to replicate the movement of a smile. A comparison group held no pen between their teeth during the experiment.
Both groups were shown images of people with a range of facial expressions (from frowns to smiles) and a series of body movements (from “sad walking” videos to “happy walking” videos).
Under the “pen-in-the-teeth” condition, the forced “smiling” facial position caused the participants to interpret the images and videos as more positive, compared to the “no-pen” group.
When participants forced a smile, it stimulated the the emotional brain center, which in turn released neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state.
According to the Chief investigator, Dr. Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, “When your muscles say you’re happy, you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way.”
He concludes, if the brain can be tricked into perceiving stimuli as happy, this mechanism could be used to boost mental health conditions such as reducing anxiety or depression.
So, just before you meditate, once you’re comfortable, gently smile and then begin. You don’t have to hold the smile the entire time, but it’s a nice way to start.
You can also end your meditation with a gentle smile too, in order to ease you back into your normal waking state with a boost of happiness.
Give it a try,