Did you know that your mood changes your body? Finnish researchers took 701 participants from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan and showed them two human silhouettes alongside emotional stories, movies, or facial expressions. Afterwards, the participants were asked to color the areas of the body where they felt increased activity with warm shades and decreased activity with blue. Researchers hope what they discovered can one day help scientists diagnose and treat mood disorders.
The researchers were surprised to discover that the participants all held incredibly similar answers, even across the different cultures. Emotions such as anger and happiness, or “approach-oriented emotions,” were prominent in the arms. However, emotions such as sadness saw no effect on the upper limbs. While love and happiness sparked activity all throughout the body, depression darkened the arms, legs, and head. The chest was activated when participants experienced emotions like fear or danger. The emotion of disgust saw changes in stomach and throat regions. Interestingly enough, the only emotion that changes the entire body is happiness.
This research is a wonderful example of the powerful connection the human mind has with the body. Physiological changes take place when our brain sends signals to the body so we can deal with different problems, interactions, and more in our day to day lives. Similarly, other psychological experiments claim that doing things with our body, such as smiling, can help change our mood. In other words, if you are feeling somber, putting on a smile and sitting up straight can trick the mind into feeling happy.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio was delighted by these findings because it supports a theory he has been working on for years: “each emotion activates a distinct set of body parts, and the mind’s recognition of those patterns helps us consciously identify that emotion.”
Researchers kept the questions online so other people can try it out on themselves. You can find it here.