Key Takeaways

  • The act of smiling triggers brain chemicals related to positivity, even when the smile isn’t genuine, a recent study says.

  • Just mimicking facial muscular activity, like holding a pencil in your mouth, is enough to generate more positive emotions.

  • The downsides of “faking” positivity are few, experts added, unless you’re trying to mask symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Simply moving your facial muscles in a way that mimics a smile can trick your brain into a more positive state, according to a recent study published in the journal Experimental Psychology.1

The research found that the physical act of smiling not only created internal positive feelings, but also caused participants to see the world around them in a more positive way, according to lead researcher Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, PhD, a research fellow at the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning at the University of South Australia.

Happy Brain, Brighter Perspective

Researchers from the University of South Australia had participants replicate the facial movement of a smile by holding a pen between their teeth, causing the corners of the mouth to lift.1 Even though participants’ smiles were faked, their brains didn’t know the difference, says Marmolejo-Ramos.