'Smile! It Could Make You Happier'

Melinda Wenner, writing for Scientific American:

This February psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people whose ability to frown is comp­romised by cosmetic botox inject­ions are happier, on average, than people who can frown. The researchers administered an anxiety and depression questionnaire to 25 females, half of whom had received frown-inhibiting botox injections. The botox recipients reported feeling happier and less anxious in general; more important, they did not report feeling any more attractive, which suggests that the emotional effects were not driven by a psychological boost that could come from the treatment's cosmetic nature.

"It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn't just restricted to our brain-there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we're having," says Michael Lewis, a co-author of the study. "It's like a feedback loop." In a related study from March, scientists at the Technical University of Munich in Germany scanned botox recipients with fMRI machines while asking them to mimic angry faces. They found that the botox subjects had much lower activity in the brain circuits involved in emotional processing and responses-in the amygdala, hypothal­amus and parts of the brain stem-as compared with con­trols who had not received treatment.

The concept works the opposite way, too-enhancing emotions rather than suppressing them. People who frown during an unpleasant procedure report feeling more pain than those who do not, according to a study published in May 2008 in the Journal of Pain. Researchers applied heat to the forearms of 29 participants, who were asked to either make unhappy, neutral or relaxed faces during the procedure. Those who exhibited negative expressions reported being in more pain than the other two groups. Lewis, who was not involved in that study, says he plans to study the effect that botox injections have on pain perception. "It's possible that people may feel less pain if they're unable to express it," he says.

Interesting read. Maybe I should start smiling more often.

(via someone on Twitter...can't remember who)