Jul 21, 2019 | Updated: 08:54 AM EDT

How Do You Spread Happiness? Work Up a Sweat.

Apr 18, 2015 11:41 PM EDT


Are you feeling happy and you want to spread that feeling to family, friends, and maybe even strangers?  Well then you may want to go grab a good workout first.  A new study has found that the smell of sweat can actually help spread happiness.

The new study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that we produce chemical compounds, or "chemosignals," in our sweat when we experience happiness.  These chemical signals can then be detected by others when they smell us.

These chemosignals trigger a "contagion of the emotional state," according to senior study author Gün Semin, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. "This suggests that somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness. In a way, happiness sweat is somewhat like smiling - it is infectious."

According to researchers, past studies have already found that the chemical compounds in sweat can give off negative emotions, but few studies have actually looked at whether or not the same could be said for positive emotions.

For the study, Semin and colleagues enrolled 12 men, all of whom were nonsmokers, did not take medications, and didn't suffer from any psychological disorders.

The men were asked to watch a video clip intended to produce one of three emotions:  fear, happiness or a neutral emotion.  They were also asked to view a number of Chinese symbols and rate how pleasant or unpleasant they felt each one was.  This task was designed to measure their "implicit emotion," according to the team.  Before the test began, the men rinsed and dried their armpits and attached absorbent pads to them that they wore during the tasks.

Initial analysis of the men determined that the video clips succeeded in influencing the emotions of the men.

Next, the researchers added 36 women to the study all of whom were nonsmokers and free of psychological disorders like the men.  The women were asked to smell a sweat sample of each type of emotion the men experienced while the researchers measured their facial expressions to determine the motions they felt as they smelled each sample.

The team found that the women demonstrated increased activity in the medial frontalis muscle of the face that is commonly associated with fear.

In addition, they found that the women who smelled the "happy sweat" showed facial muscle activity associated with a Duchenne smile.  Researchers also found that in perceptual-processing tasks, the team found women exposed to happy sweat showed a perceptual-processing style commonly associated with happiness.

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