Things are a little fresh around here… I have had two of my usual blogging days off… Enjoying the craic in western Ireland, Galway to be precise…

On several occasions, Katie and I commented on how happy the people seemed to be. As well as being kind and sociable, which I expected, the people in general seemed happier… This despite being hit with the recession much more intensely than many other areas of the world.

So what is the reason for such a general heightened happy demeanour then? Let mer explain my thoughts here today…

“Well how do you know they actually are happier Adam?”

That is a good question you ask there. Of course I do not know for sure. I just got a sense of it. One big factor influencing my thought process, was that the people there tend to smile a great deal more… Yes, they smile… You know what that is, don’t you?

Right now, this very moment, wherever you are, however you are feeling, go ahead and force a big smile onto your face, regardless of how fake it may look, just force a smile on your face.

Now do that two more times in fairly quick sucession. Do that before reading on, force it.

Did you feel that shot of good feeling get delivered to the brain as a result of you smiling? 

So here comes the dilemma… The chicken and egg debate all over again… Which came first? The happiness or the smile? Do you smile because you are happy, or are you happy because you smile?

Do you frown because you are miserable, or are you miserable because you frown? Do you stand up straight and tall and boldly walk into the office because you feel confident, or do you feel confident because you are walking tall and straight, boldly holding your shoulders in that way? Hmmm…

This is simple cause and effect.

So as we noticed earlier when I recommended you force 3 smiles upon your face (unless you are a grumpbag refusing to partake) facial expressions are not always a consequence of emotion being felt. In fact, facial expressions can also generate emotion… As can body language…

If you’ve ever done a firewalk with Tony Robbins, you’ll know he gets you to hold your body in a ‘power move’ when you cross the coals to really affect your internal state, for example.

The public often perceive actors as ‘temperamental’ — unlikely you would have not heard Christian Bale’s tirade of abuse makings its way around the internet earlier this year… This was not utterly surprising, he is an actor after all…

So what if constantly adopting the expressions of anger, sadness, aggression, etc actually makes you feel that way? Method acting emotions could end up giving you the real thing. Facial expression don’t just reflect but also form the way that we feel.

So can I interest you in some Botox?

An interesting research article at Time magazine online shows that Botox injections can help make you feel happier because you cannot frown while the Botox is paralyzing your facial muscles. Frowning sends signals to the brain which can make you feel irritable or sad. Not only that, but frowning sends signals to other people that you are not in a good mood, and they tend to frown in response — which, in a feedback loop, can also make you feel down, and isolated.

Obviously, if someone is really depressed then it’s likely that many of their basic needs are not being satisfied, and Botox alone could only ever be a partial solution, but it’s conceivable that such a treatment could at least get the ball rolling by lifting their mood enough for them to start getting their emotional and physical needs properly met.

I mean, if you have ever read any of the brilliant work of Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics, he was himself a plastic surgeon who showed that people who had plastic surgery were often not made that much happier as a result of their surgery alone… In fact, it made very little impact on their internal state or perception of self.

Mind you, I’m not particularly advocating Botox as a depression treatment… Although wouldn;t people love that? Being able to inject happiness! Ha! Nearly as easy and as lazy as popping a tablet… There is a wider point here…

Therapeutic interventions which may look as if they are only addressing a small part of the problem (like setting behavioural tasks as part of the therapeutic programme) can have a much greater impact through ‘ripple effect’ than is necessarily immediately obvious.

maybe I need to use hypnosis to hypnotise my clients and students to believe they have had botox and refuse to frown… 😉

I think it would be a fabulous hypnotherapy adjunct. 🙂