Amanda MacMillan, SELF magazine
You know that expression "fake it until you make it"? That's kind of the idea behind a cool new book to hit shelves this week. The Face of Emotion, by Maryland-based dermatological surgeon Eric Finzi, MD, suggests that the happier we look, the happier we feel. Say cheese and get cheerful? Easy enough.
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In 2006, Finzi published a study that suggested that using Botox to erase frown lines actually helped improve symptoms of depression. "By inhibiting their ability to frown, patients found themselves in a state of relief rather than despair," Finzi writes. "These findings introduce a novel concept for mental health--using facial expressions to influence thoughts and feelings."
Crazy, right?! Finzi says that his new book--which takes a broader look at how we react to each other's (and our own) facial expressions--was born after Jay Leno made some jokes about his research; apparently, he realized that he'd struck a social nerve and that people would be interested in more on this topic, especially if there are real lessons to be learned. And it sounds like there are: Here's one trick Finzi discusses in his book.
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Think about something that makes you really depressed or angry--something that will normally put you in a bad mood. At the same time, try to smile broadly and laugh as hard as you can. Chances are you have trouble doing both at once, and the more you cheese it up the less you're able to really "feel" sadness or anger. (It can work the other way, too: If you frown and furrow your brow, chances are you'll actually start to feel sad or angry--but you don't have to try that one at home.)
So all we have to do is smile all the time (or better yet, Botox away our frowns) and we're immune from depression? Not exactly, says Finzi, but it is possible to use this little mood booster as an instant pick-me-up when you may need a new perspective. The next time you're feeling down, turn that frown upside down. It's free, it's simple, and science show's it's effective.