Being Happier Through...Botox?

By Andrea Karim on 14 February 2010 16 comments
Photo: Day 5 - Frown

I never thought I'd admit this publicly, but I have had Botox injections before. Yes, I am only 33. And no, I don't have some kind of dysmorphic disorder, and I'm not completely obsessed with every wrinkle or line on my face. I don't adore the process of aging, but whaddya gonna do, you know?

But I will admit to a certain amount of vanity, and the truth is, I got really upset when I noticed this rather deep line between my eyebrows. It's not so much from aging as it is from frowning. I frown a LOT. I work at a computer all day, and when I have to concentrate, or when I'm nervous, or when I'm angry or sad, I frown. I frown when I sleep, I've been told. I'm a frowner.

I won't lie; I'm not a super happy person. I'm grumpy a lot of the time, and I have been since I was very young. My family is not a miserable family, although depression does tend to run in the Slavic side. My childhood was relatively happy, but I'm not what you would call "joyful." I'm not depressed, but I definitely come from a long line of women who aren't particularly fond of perkiness. During college, I went through a period of rather extreme depression, and while I found that medication helped at the time, it's not a long-term solution for me. I've come to accept that I've never been, and will never be, a bright and cheery kind of person.

Also, I get angry easily. Most of my mornings start with me glaring at myself in the bathroom mirror for about five minutes. Most of the time, though, I don't realize that I am frowning — I do it all the time, while writing, talking on the phone, watching a movie, and I don't even realize that it's happening until I've been doing it for about an hour and my forehead starts to ache.

About a year ago, the presence of that rather deep line between my brows got the better of me, and I paid a very nice nurse at a local surgeon's office approximately $140 dollars to inject toxins into my face. Honestly, I was terrified that I would end up looking like those stretch-faced, zombie women on TV, unable to express the most basic emotion through facial muscles. My nurse assured me that she had Botox, and she looked, at age 40, really great — not frozen and zombified. I took the plunge.

Aside from the cost, my only complaint about the treatment was that I had a pretty bad headache for about a week. Once that disappeared, though, and the muscles started to relax, I was happy to see that the line between my brows pretty much disappeared. And yes, the muscles couldn't move, so I couldn't furrow my brow. I could still raise my eyebrows and narrow my eyes, and obviously my cheeks and mouth weren't affected, so I could FROWN, but not furrow. I simply couldn't activate the muscles that would draw my brows together.

Then I noticed something: I felt a lot less angry. Whenever I would find myself getting frustrated at something (usually at work), just as I could feel my face pulling into a frown, I would realize that it just couldn't be done. I couldn't frown. And without the ability to do that, I didn't stay angry very long. Momentary irritation tended to fizzle, and while it's true that my job wasn't any easier, I just didn't get as upset about it. I even mentioned it to a coworker, who assured me that I was (1) crazy and (2) trying to justify having spent $140 on Botox. I told my parents, both medical professionals, about the effect on my mood, and they both sighed heavily and wondered what they had ever done to raise a daughter who couldn't love her own face.

Well, who's having the last laugh now? That would be me (yes, I can still laugh), after finding that my experience of having botox improve my mood is not only common, but that it has a scientific explanation. Facial feedback hypothesis, which has previously told us that smiling can actually make us feel happier even when we naturally aren't, can also explain why someone who is unable to frown fully doesn't maintain a steady state of anger. It turns out that it's not just your moods that affect your facial expressions, but your facial expressions that affect your moods. Thus, someone who forces themselves to smile when they feel down can significantly improve their own mood, and someone who stops frowning when upset can stem the tide of anger or depression.

Botox, it seems, can make you happier. Or at least, Botox can make you less unhappy.

I'm not going to pretend that the over-application of Botox doesn't freak me out. Between aging Hollywood madams on TV and physicians wives elbowing me aside at the shoe department at Nordstrom, I agree that a totally Botoxified face is a terror to behold. But in small amounts, I have to say, it really has been a godsend.

My $140 worth of Botox lasted longer than expected — approximately 6 months (I was told to expect 3). Twenty-three dollars a month for an improved mood is worth it to me.

No word yet on whether total facial paralysis limits all kinds of emotions, although I imagine limiting one's ability to smile might make them less happy?

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Guest's picture

I remember early on in one of my psychology classes we learned that we cry because we are sad, and we can be sad because we cry. I think the same is with happy ... you can smile because you are happy, or you can be happy because you smile.

As a blackbelt technique in the art of leading a happier life, you can use a "ticker" to count your happy thoughts throughout the day. You get more of what you measure, so simply paying attention to your happy thoughts causes them to multiply. By ticker, I simply mean a little hand-held counter that you can click and count your way through the day.

Guest's picture

Andrea, I really appreciate your writing this article. This is definitely some news I can use. I'm also a frowner. I'm glad I don't have crow's feet and laugh lines. People do think I am younger than I am. But I do have that little furrow between the eyebrows that you mentioned you had. I'm much more likely to give Botox a try. Thanks!

Guest's picture

This makes so much sense. I am 30 and also have that line between my brows. It is the only major sign of age on my face. It is from squinting in the sun as well as intense focus on work. People often say, I look "unapproachable" at times and I believe this is why.

I think my furrow is more caused by anxiety than anger... I wonder if keeping the spot in my face that holds the most tension, relaxed, it would help me stay overall, relaxed. I somehow feel that is would.

Great article, fresh topic, thanks!

Guest's picture

I have the line between my eyebrows that my father had; it made him look mad, always. I don't want that, and I've been thinking about Botox. Thanks for writing this, as I wasn't sure whether it would work or how much it would cost.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Great topic, Andrea.  While I'm pretty sure I wouldn't go for Botox myself, I do notice that I feel and act more positively when my frown line in my forehead is under control.  I've seen pretty good results from using a combination of moisturizers with Retinol and just being super diligent about exfoliating and staying out of the sun.  Of course, I've been doing this since well before I turned 30 (I'm set to turn 32 in a few months), and I'm not sure that anyone who didn't start early enough could see the same results.  (On a side note, I currently can't use anything more than water and soap on my skin without it breaking out -- now that I'm pregnant.  So I'm back to being frowny-frownikins for at least another 4 months.)

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

There's a great product called "Frownies" that you place between your brows and wear overnight.

Andrea Karim's picture

It's funny, I've noticed that I can keep the rest of my skin fairly smooth and plump through some good products and moisturizers, but the line between my brows is so deeply entrenched that it seems like the solution is more than skin deep.

However, I can totally see why anyone would avoid Botox. It just seems so gross, pumping your skin full of toxins. If it wasn't for the benefits that I saw in mood, I would totally never do it.

Strangely enough, and I didn't mention this in the article because it seemed kind of doofy, I only noticed how bad the frowning was when I was at an Indian wedding. I was all decked out in my sari, and I had bought this really cool bindi for my forehead (it was tall and beweled and terribly chic). It also keep popping off of my face every time I would frown, which was, like, every 2.5 seconds.

That's when I first felt, "Wow, I need to do something about this." :)

Financial Samurai's picture

I guess people 3-400 years ago died at 33, so maybe it's not too bad to get BOTOX at a certain age. But, when does it stop?

It's great you can still laugh! That's what I find sexiest about women, their smile.


Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Financial Samurai's picture


Financial Samurai
"Slicing Through Money's Mysteries"

Andrea Karim's picture

The photo in the article isn't me. The one on my profile... well, that's the beauty of Photoshop. :)

Guest's picture
Stacey Marcos

I remember doing an experiment in college psychology. We had to smile as much as we could for a week and we were interviewed the next week. The result was....everyone felt happier. I had forgotten about that. Thanks for the 'happy flashback'. Great article.

Guest's picture
Smiley :)

Great article! I've noticed the "Botox effect" on myself. I'm just a sunnier person when I'm Botoxed. I feel better about life but I always thought it was because I liked the way I looked without that horizontal line. Peaceful face :) The crankyness factor seems to go up for me when the Botox has worn off. I'm at that point now and can't wait to get a dose. I'm sending this post to my DH who likes to say I don't "need" Botox, lol.

On a side note, I was reading a People magazine about the Housewives of OC, NY, Atlanta and where ever else they have those crazy women. What was bizarre is that almost every single one of them admitted to breast enhancement but most wouldn't admit to using Botox. Weird.

Guest's picture

Great post! I know from personal experience that most men and women getting botox are not the crazy ones that every anti-botox fanatic points to. The average botox patient knows what they're getting, is going for modest results, and doesn't want to be expression-less. They just want to fine-tune their physiognomy and get rid of a few wrinkles. What's the big deal?

Guest's picture

Andrea, you are an excellent writer. Funny, insightful and pretty good with the photos. Keep up the good work.

Guest's picture

Thank you for putting into words what I've been experiencing this past week!
People are acting so friendly to me. I didn't realize how pissed off I looked all of the time and how much I just wanted to be that way until I couldn't frown anymore. It's almost too much all at once to absorb. It's like a complete personality change has happened with this stuff. I never would have thought this was possible. I was curious if others had experienced this and I ended up finding your blog. The psychology behind botox... crazy stuff.

Andrea Karim's picture

I'm so glad that you found the article! I tried explaining the experience to my father, who is a neurologist, and he didn't believe me! But I've heard many other people express the same feelings of calm after having Botox injections.

I'm actually due for another round, now that I think about it! Been getting rather cranky as of late.