The naked face of human emotion

“The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings. It is an equal partner in the emotional process” writes Malcolm Gladwell in Blink.

He is referring to the discovery by researchers that not only does our face spontaneously express our emotions, but that our emotions are impacted by the expressions on our face.

Scientists working to collate the full range of human facial expressions spent hours perfecting facial muscle movements, including those that would usually express, sadness, anger and other negative feelings. They began to realise that on those days, they began to feel terrible emotionally.Further studies confirmed that when people were asked to make these negative facial expressions, their bodies showed all the physiological signs of people actually experiencing anger, sadness or fear.

Rather than our faces being  just a map to our hearts, they can actually help us change direction. A choice today to smile, even if your heart is heavy, could actually leave you feeling happier.

Beyond that Gladwell also describes in Blink how scientists have shown that we can be ‘primed’ to respond a certain way to a situation by the words we hear before hand. People hearing words praising them for their intelligence, do better in tests… Even if the words are incidental (ie not directly related to the situation) people still are primed accordingly, if unconsciously.

No wonder there is such a strong emphasis in the Bible on giving thanks, declaring the good attributes of God (praise) and taking joy. God has equipped us with many tools to not only express our emotions, but guide them. Much better than ignoring them or being ruled by them.

Smile at someone today, you might just cheer yourself up! PH

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