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Feeling Good, It's Not Just In the Brain

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

woman smiling while on computerDid you ever hear the expression "Smile and the whole world smiles with you?" Certainly, a smile reflects the inner good feeling a person has and is outwardly expressing. However, this raises the old "which came first, the chicken or the egg" question? In other words, does feeling good inside cause a person to smile or does the smile cause the person to feel good? The answer might be that it can be either.

Several studies of the use of Botox have provide some possible answers as to whether a smile or frown can influence how we feel. Botox is the chemical used to smooth wrinkles for those who want to look younger. However, one of the effects of Botox is that the user is unable to frown. Psychologists at the University of Cardiff, in Wales, gave people a depression screening questionnaire. The people were arranged into two matched groups. One group consisted of people who use Botox treatment and the matching group (matched for age, gender, income and background)who do not.

The depression questionnaire revealed the fact that Botox users felt happier and less depressed as compared to the non users. In addition, the Botox group reported that they did not feel more attractive as a result of Botox as compared to the non user group. The researchers concluded that, based on this controlled study, emotions result not only from chemicals in the brain, but from things that are happening elsewhere in our bodies. The primary difference between the two groups was the Botox group could not frown, but, could smile.

Perhaps moods such as depression, anxiety, anger and happiness are not the result of any one simple factor such as smiling but putting on a smile cannot hurt.

Much like other recommendations for those with anxiety and depression (all of us), it would be a good idea to exercise, eat healthy and...SMILE.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.