This Simple Act Will Instantly Brighten Your Day

It may sound too good to be true, but it's powerful enough to lift you right out of your Monday Blues.

Just ... smile.

Science has known for some time that smiling is not just a physical reaction to happiness — it can also be the cause of happiness. In other words, if you fake it, you can actually make it.

There has been research that shows that forcing a smile can lift your mood, and that our facial expressions change the way we perceive the world.

Now, a new paper in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience further explores the possibility that smiling changes the way our brains process other people’s emotions. In order to accomplish this, researchers, led by Alejandra Sel at Royal Holloway College, University of London, used a EEG (electroencephalography) to monitor the brainwaves of 25 participants as they looked at photographs of either smiling or neutral faces.

When the subjects had on a neutral expression to start, Sel's team found that their brain activity spiked after looking at happy faces compared to neutral face. What's more surprising, though, was that when the participants smiled, their neural activity was just as enhanced whether they looked at neutral or smiling faces. So when the participant smiled, his or her brain acted like the face in the photograph was smiling even if it wasn't.

The researchers say their results provide strong evidence "for a fundamental role of one’s own facial expressions in the visual processing of the observed facial expressions of other people and provides support for the colloquial phrase that ‘if you smile, the world will smile back to you.'"

So do yourself a favor: Lift the corners of your mouth to lift your spirits. Arrive at a party with a smile on and you'll probably make the party better. Put a smile on as you walk to work. You may think people will look at you strangely, and they might, but you may be helping them view the world in a more positive light.

(h/t New York Magazine)

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