Thursday, August 14, 2014

Inject a Happy Face

I have certainly learned that even when one is feeling pretty horrible, summoning forced joviality can actually lead to natural chipperness. 

Now, hear this: Botox freezes facial muscles, this we know. By paralyzing specifically the frowning muscles, more than half of a study's participants, who suffer from major depression, felt better ("Don't Worry, Get Botox" by Richard A. Friedman)!

It was believed that facial expressions are simply the, well, expressions of a certain mood; happiness first, then the smile. Not so. 
In “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals,” Darwin posited that the control of facial expression causes a like effect on subjective emotions. William James took the idea further and proposed that emotions were the result, not the cause, of various bodily sensations, suggesting that “we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike, or tremble, because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be.”
Cause and effect. How often have we gotten this chicken-and-the-egg thing wrong? Yet again, we see how Judaism's emphasis on action, as opposed to motivation, is on target.
In a broad sense, these Botox studies underscore one of the biggest challenges in treating people with depression. They might think that the reason they are depressed is that they have little interest in the world or their friends — a mistaken notion that is the result, not the cause, of their depression. They insist that only once they feel better will it make sense for them to rejoin the world, socialize and start smiling. Their therapists would be well advised to challenge their inverted sense of causality and insist that they will start feeling better after they re-engage with the world.
"I'm not in the mood." True. Not yet.
Give us a grin.   


Daniel Saunders said...

I broadly agree. I definitely notice improvements in my mood when I force myself to improve my posture and smile. But it isn't always possible. In the depths of depression there may be other factors preventing socialization which need to be dealt with first, or at least alongside this. When my depression was really bad, when I was in Oxford, I would go to social things and just want the ground to swallow me up - I just couldn't function there.

Incidentally, my depression is bad today, worse than it's been for some weeks, and I'm dreading going to shul this evening, but am currently hoping to force myself.

Princess Lea said...

Note the article didn't say forced socialization, merely inhibiting the ability to frown actually led to improvement. Maybe you should check it out . . . and look incredibly youthful, as a perk. :P

Daniel Saunders said...

I admit that while I do usually read the whole article you link to before commenting, yesterday I was in a sufficiently low mood not to do so, so apologies for that. Having now read it, I'm still not convinced. As I said, I do notice an improvement in my mood (though usually briefly) when I put on a smile in social settings, so I accept that much. But I'm not sure to what extent it helps. The article seemed low on statistics: how depressed were the sufferers and how much did their mood lift? I'd like some numbers.

Anyway, I didn't mean to sound argumentative. As I said, I'm feeling worse than I've done for a while and that just makes me irritable and also lonely, hence making a nuisance of myself on the blogs I read (I left a similarly irrelevant comment on PopChassid). And media coverage of mental health issues is almost guaranteed to get me annoyed.

And who says I don't look incredibly youthful already? :-P

Shabbat shalom.

Princess Lea said...

Hey, so do I, but that doesn't stop me from layering on face cream by the barrel every night.