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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Feeling Good, It's Not Just In the Brain

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 15th 2009

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.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Smile \ Botox - Carol M. Mak - Dec 8th 2009

Botox, such a fake kind of way to live.  I think a natural face is's the eyes that tell what you're really like inside..

I used to tell my very "shy" mother in her old age..when we got into an elevator, I could smile and talk to people just to say "hello"...instantly they smile back.  (even tho I'm naturally a depressed person)  I learned to do this as an "apeing" helps.  Mom thought for a while.. gave it a try - yep, you're right smile, they smile back.  It's better.

Besides-I've earned all my wrinkles and am dang proud I have them.  It's a privilege to live this long.  Most other countries around the globe can appreciate a natural face.

Botox - stiffness of the area - rubbish.

Seems like a bogus study to me - David J. Bookbinder, LMHC - Oct 16th 2009

A study like this seems to me to be making a specific correlation between what are most likely much broader differences between the two study groups. People who seek out a treatment to make themselves look younger are much more likely, it seems to me, to feel happier if only because that's why they sought the treatment in the first place, and the treatment works for its designed purpose. People who take a placebo antidepressant that has a side effect are helped nearly exactly as much as people who are actually taking the antidepressant.

This is a demonstration of cognitive dissonance, not of the effectiveness of smiling or not smiling. (Although I have read elsewhere that activating the smile muscles can improve mood.)

"Smile, and the world smiles with you ... - JR - Oct 16th 2009

... weep, and you weep alone".  As the saying goes.

I don't know.  I am actually not good at smiling.  In fact, from my youth, I always seem to have come across as rather grim.  Owing to a chance temporary posting, I found myself one day reading the interviewers' notes from a job interview in which I was successful.  The notes were quite positive, but included a comment along the lines that "one should not be put off by the  serious image he presents".  I was about 22 at the time.  When I show my sense of humour (which is expansive, if sometimes caustic), it still surprises people sometimes - how can that comment come from that face ?  Just the way I am, I suppose.  Of course, I do my best to lighten up - if only because my wife is forever urging me to do so - but there seems to be only so much that I can do with my face.  Mind you, my face does match my mood, all too much of the time.

Regarding botox, there is a very amusing advertisment on air in my part of the world, in which a woman is confronted by a television license inspector.  Her face is so stuffed with botox that she is unable to express anything much through it, other than a mildly amused idiocy - even when told that her failure to purchase a license may result in a criminal conviction.  I certainly think that we need to be true to ourselves - perhaps we need to be true to our faces, also !

Just kidding (I think),

Best regards,


Frowning? - Allan N. Schwartz, Phd - Oct 15th 2009

Hi Cathy,

Yup, you're probably right but.....geeh, I hope you were not frowning when you wrote this??? (grin).

Dr. Schwartz

Silly? - Cathy - Oct 15th 2009

That seems like a silly study and they probably got federal tax funds to do it with.  Botox users, well, it just seems that people who go in for that thing are "different" in the first place.  I mean really, how superficial is not wanting wrinkles?  A smile that doesn't come from the heart is nothing but empty and fake like the lack of wrinkles caused by Botox.  Someone willing to compromise their health not to have wrinkles has very little to smile about - guess that makes it good they can't frown!  Silly study.  Exercise, eating right and following the Golden Rule's smile will out do Botox's smile anyday of the week!

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