Can you smile again in just eight minutes? According to Kelly McGonigal, yes. This American psychologist has developed a “joy workout” that even managed to tickle the curiosity of the prestigious New York Times.
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According to the psychologist, following her method for eight minutes each morning could help us start the day on the right foot and get our smiles back on track. No more gloomy thoughts, foggy brains in the shower and head to the ground because it’s raining cats and dogs outside. Concretely, this exercise which looks a bit like a dance of joy would consist of turning on your favorite catchy song and performing each of the following six steps for one minute:
1. Reach: It’s about stretching your arms trying to reach for the sky
2. Sways: You swing your shoulders, then your arms, until you completely swing your entire body, releasing each part well.
3. Bounce: We hop to the beat of the music
4. Shake : Shake your body limb by limb to get rid of negative emotions, then shake your whole body
5. Jump for joy: Jump in place while raising your fists to the sky in victory
6. Celebrate: Throw your hands skyward by stretching your fingertips, as if throwing confetti.
At the end, we spend two minutes dancing freely, without rules, to the music we have chosen. You can take up some of the movements mentioned above to continue on your way or opt for a complete “freestyle”.
What scientific basis?
If the method seems crazy or even a bit ridiculous, it has the merit of being based on tangible scientific studies that have tried to understand how certain movements could make us happier. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, scientists asked participants to stay in either an expansive posture or a closed posture for two minutes. The former felt more powerful and had lower stress levels at the end. They also tended to take more risks. As for the latter, their level of cortisol (stress hormones) remained higher.
A second study carried out in 2021 asked 25 participants to perform a series of movements (jumping, stretching, extension movements, dancing in rhythm, etc.). Results ? The researchers concluded that their results “confirm the role of movement in changing or including an emotional state”. Happiness could be enhanced by these different types of movements. Of these, jumping and raising your head to the sky were the moves that made you the happiest.
Some additional techniques:
A momentary method
“Listening to pleasant music and putting oneself in a festive state can trigger a momentary well-being”confirm Doctor Stéphane Clerget, psychiatrist in Paris in Ouest France. But if the positive effects of this forced situation are quickly felt, they are only temporary. “It’s like the feeling you get after spending time with friends laughing, it’s always good to take”, he adds. Thus, the “joy workout” would simply come from the old behavioral methods.
Like forcing yourself to smile, forcing yourself to do an exercise of joy can “trick the brain” to trigger well-being. This method can be particularly useful for people who tend to have negative thoughts, who have trouble letting go, or who experience temporary lows in morale. But it only solves the problem on the surface and instantly, it does not intervene in depth. A good exercise to force yourself to get into the bath when you’re not in good shape, but by no means a miracle cure for all ailments.
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