What are some brain hacks that a neuroscientist or a psychologist knows that most people don't? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Fake facial expressions actually work.
There are about eight (give or take) facial expressions that are intrinsic to all humans, regardless of culture. Here are the common ones:
Now, have you ever heard the phrase "fake a smile?" People say to do that when you're feeling down so that you can feign strength to push through the day.
But here's the thing: faking a smile actually does make you happier!
Just like faking an angry expression can make you angrier all of a sudden. Repeat this for the other facial expressions.
This is because those intrinsic facial expressions are each hard-wired to our brains in a specific way so that when they're activated, both the corresponding physiological responses and emotional feelings will follow. This will work for every human. It doesn't matter what culture you're from.
So if you make an angry face, your sympathetic nervous system will activate, increasing heart rate and preparing you for a fight-or-flight response. At the same time, your amygdala in your brain will stimulate feelings of anger. Intense.
Here's a practical application of this. Before a concert or stand-up comedy show, the house may send out a pre-show act to warm up the audience before the main act. This is smart, because the pre-show act will likely get you to smile. And because you'll already be smiling and happy from the pre-show act, you'll definitely be even happier for the main act. Mind blown?
So the next time you're feeling stressed or sad, fake a smile. I do this when I'm stressed, and it helps to remind me that all predicaments are temporary and have a silver lining.
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