How a smile could help ease depression and anxiety

Baku, December 27, AZERTAC

Scientists now believe that emotions and expressions happen at exactly the same time, so triggering one automatically activates the other. It therefore follows, that smiling, or seeing a smile, even when you don’t feel happy could stimulate happy thoughts, or vice versa.

It is said that when you smile, the world smiles with you and now neuroscientists are putting the time-worn adage to the test.

A new project by University College London is aiming to find out if simply looking at a smiling face could help ease depression and anxiety.

Javier Elkin and Professor Parashkev Nachev have developed a new app called PocketSmile which sends a grinning image to smartphones throughout the day in the hope it could actually cheer people up.

It follows recent research which suggests that when people see someone smiling, their own smile muscles cannot help but also switch on. The emotion appears to be contagious and it is virtually impossible to avoid mimicking the expression.

The scientists are hoping that thousands of people will sign up to the PocketSmile which takes 20 days. Participants are initially asked about their levels of happiness and depression before being sent images of smiling faces for 10 days and then landscapes for 10 days as a control.

Scientists say emotions and facial expressions act like a ‘push-pull’ effect. If you block a negative emotion, a positive effect comes out.

However blocking positive emotions can have the reverse action. Prof Nachev has worked with patients who have complete facial paralysis and it paralyses their emotions.

In the future the team hope to work on projects which could alter the sound of the voice to make is sound less anxious, or create an avatar of a person in which they look calmer.

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