Fake it ’til you make it

I recently finished a book called The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance by Friederike Fabritius, MS and Hans W. Hagemann, PhD. I thought it was a great book, and I wanted to share a couple of studies that really resonated with me. 

We’ve all heard the expression, “Fake it til you make it”, and it turns out there’s actually science to support it. The body can influence emotions. 

Here’s one example: The Botox Effect. A study of 40 women (a small study group, to be sure) were asked to respond to statements before and after Botox treatments. Although the subjects responses to happy statements were unchanged, their reactions to sad or angry statements were noticeably slower after receiving injections. According to the “facial feedback hypothesis”, our physical expressions send signals to our brains to produce the appropriate response. Put differently, although we smile when we’re happy, sometimes smiling can actually make us happy. The results of this study were so intriguing, psychologists began researching the “frozen smile” that Botox can sometimes produce as a possible remedy for depression.Wow, right!?

Here’s another example: Other studies have been conducted using an ordinary pencil or even chopsticks instead of Botox. In one case, one group of subjects held chopsticks between their teeth (forcing them to smile… try it, it works!), while the other group assumed a neutral expression. Both groups were subjected to minor stresses, such as plunging their hand into a bucket of ice water. In each instance, researchers measured the subject’s heart rates before, during, and after the stressful event. The heart rates of the subjects who were smiling (even though it was the result of having a chopstick between their teeth, not actively trying to smile) recovered more quickly than the heart rates of those who maintained a neutral expression.

Pretty amazing, right? And so simple. Now I’m not encouraging anyone to run out and get Botox (but if it’s something you want to try, go for it); I am encouraging you to “fake it til you make it”. I mean, what have you got to lose?!