Feeling down? Head to the gym…not to work out, but to stand next to the happiest person there and take a whiff. It turns out that body odor may have a pretty amazing effect on your mood, according to new research from Utrecht University in the Netherlands
Published in the journal Psychological Science, the first part of the study had a group of men watch videos intended to induce a specific emotional state (fear, happiness, or neutral) while wearing absorbent pads at each armpit. Next, researchers recruited a group of women and exposed them to the sweat samples gathered from the men.
Researchers found that the women’s facial expressions were consistent with the sweat sample they were exposed to—but happy sweat was particularly powerful, producing facial muscle activity indicative of a Duchenne smile (a genuine smile that engages the muscles around the eyes as well as the mouth), and correlating with a positive mood throughout the day. The women exposed to happy sweat also showed a more holistic way of processing visual stimulus.
According to the researchers, we produce chemical compounds when we experience happiness—and not only can others detect those chemical compounds, but they can also “catch” the positive mood. “Our study shows that being exposed to sweat produced under happiness induces a simulacrum of happiness in receivers, and induces a contagion of the emotional state,” Gün Semin, senior researcher on the study, explains in a press release. “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.”