You know the old saying, 'smile and the world smiles with you'? And have you found that to be true a lot of the time? And are you one of those people who find it impossible not to 'catch' a yawn? In fact, you may have noticed that a lot of our body language is infectious – especially with those we are closest to. Well, there is a scientific reason for it, y'know!
Our brain contains little cells called mirror neurons and it's these minuscule message carriers that are responsible. When we smile at someone, we cause a recognition in their brain and their mirror neurons react in a similar way – sometimes without us even realising we are doing it!
Monkey See Monkey Do
Discovered by a neuroscientist called Giacomo Rizzolati and his colleagues in Italy in the 1990s while researching motor movements in macaque monkeys, mirror neurons are fascinating things. They are responsible for our empathetic reactions if we see someone in pain, the inability to keep a straight face if someone close by is in fits of giggles, why we become excited by other people's good news and the reason we might cry when watching a breakup in a movie. In short, these clever little neurons fire in the same way when they recognise actions in other people that we display ourselves, enabling us to understand, empathise and react to that action as though it were happening to us. This also goes some way to explain the 'gut reaction' that some people get with those they are bonded with.
When we interact and communicate, we use our facial expressions, gestures and body language – all things that Mirror Neurons recognise. However, these neurons are even more fascinating as they are not only activated by us performing a task ourselves, but also when we see someone else doing the same task. Put simply, they close the gap between us seeing something and actually doing it and they are the only brain cells that we know of that are capable of doing this. This tells us that Mirror Neurons play a vital role in our social interactions and goes some way to explaining why scientists now think that an irregularity within the mirror neuron system may be an underlying cause for autism and other mental disorders.
We can theorise, from all the research done, that mirror neurons and, indeed mirroring (the act of copying another's actions, whether consciously or subconsciously), is an integral part of human development. Without mirroring, we would not be able to empathise with others or understand their intentions, meaning it would be unlikely to bond or form a rapport as quickly or organically with others. We can also make an educated guess that and it's likely that children would not pick up cognitive skills and motor skills as easily or naturally as they are able to simply by watching and mimicking the behaviour and actions of those around them.
This knowledge about mirror neurons can be used to some advantage. Mirroring is a recognised technique within most therapeutic, including hypnotherapeutic, practices – by using subtle mirroring, a therapist may be able to break down barriers and help to form a rapport and trust with the client. And it can be applied outside the therapy room too – but be careful not to make it too obvious or the person you are mirroring will assume you're making fun of them! However, it really is true that if you smile at someone, they are more than likely to smile back – and while you do so, you are both producing neurotransmitters (or the 'happy chemicals' that we naturally produce) which gives you a boost in mood, mental health and wellbeing. And because those we smile at experience the same feelings down to those mirror neurons, it means that that smiling not only has a positive effect on ourselves, but also those around us.
This mentally healthy behaviour is also something that Solution Focused Hypnotherapy promotes; increased positive interaction, positive action and positive thought – all of which produce those lovely chemicals in the brain, vital for overcoming all sorts of ailments including anxiety, depression and stress.
So if you are looking to have hypnotherapy for anxiety, hypnotherapy for depression, help for communication in the workplace, social anxiety or any other social difficulty, remember that those mirror neurons can be very useful in helping make people feel comfortable in your presence and building a rapport. And we can see that mirror neurons are, in fact, integral to our social and biological development and without them we'd all be a little worse off!
For more information about how hypnotherapy could help you, or to book a free consultation, contact us via our site or call us on 07975 824378 now.