The idea that you can cheer yourself up by putting on a smile, even if you don’t feel like it, is so oft-quoted as to be practically a fact. I happen to be a big believer and am always intrigued by related studies.
So my ears perked up when I read recently that people who use Botox are less prone to anger; the hypothesis is that because their faces can’t express anger, they’re less likely to feel anger. I find this fascinating. Perhaps it’s also true that they don’t incite anger as easily in others because their faces can’t show it, leading to fewer angry encounters?
It also ties into a discussion I was having today with a girlfriend about being around people who like drama. While she and I are both well-positioned on the “mellow” side of the scale, we were commenting on how hard it is to stay that way with certain long-time friends who are notorious drama storms. Their emotion is contagious. As is the non-emotion of the Botox’d face. As is your own smile, even if you really feel like punching a pillow. We are completely susceptible to the emotions of our environment.
And as a corollary, I’ve heard a number of times recently that studies are showing that “venting” doesn’t help. Conventional wisdom holds that you need to “get it out” and that raging about your frustrations relieves some measure of stress and eases the burden. However, it actually just makes you feel worse, the way that putting on a smile makes you feel better.
I often tick people off when I don’t participate in (or even want to listen to) their venting. I’ve learned that I’m especially capable of altering my moods by adjusting how much negativity I let in, and I’m very sensitive to the smallest doses. Then again, I can put on a new mood with a smile and some sunshine, so the effect works both ways. Perhaps it’s like not drinking coffee for a few weeks – that first cup will keep you up for days. Cut out the negativity (perhaps start with the news?) and see if you don’t find yourself drifting into (even) happier territory, no matter where your benchmark started.