Commonly depression is thought to be a disease of sadness, low energy and tears. However, consider the fact that many people grew up with parental advice based on the lyric, “smile and the whole world smiles with you.” Stress management counselors often tell you that the physical act of smiling with the corners of your mouth upturned releases serotonin in the brain to lift your mood. However, dig a little deeper in the field of psychology and you will learn about a syndrome known as “smiling depression.” Basically, this can be defined as sadness wearing a mask. So which do you think is more sinister: Typical sadness or sadness masquerading as happiness? Moreover, should we fake it until we make it?
Henry David Thoreau, not a psychologist but a nineteenth century student of human nature, essayist and poet, claimed that “people live lives of quiet desperation.” In the world of Facebook many stage photos of ecstatic joy amidst amazing experiences, creating jealousy in the heart of their friends. However, now that you know about smiling depression, maybe it’s time to realize that those smiling faces might not be authentic; consequently, no need to let their fiction fuel your fear of missing out causing you to spiral down.
Symptoms of Smiling Depression:
- Others describe you as “always appearing to be so happy.” People consider you an optimist, but in reality you are pessimist.
- You tuck in your sadness, not allowing it to seep out; in other words, good side out. In fact, you sound like a cheerleader.
- You tell yourself that you have a lot to be grateful for when internally you believe that your life is empty, or filled with pain and conflict.
- You do not confide in others to announce your reality and so, release it.
- You believe that crying is a sign of weakness. In fact, your parents admonished you when you cried.
- You have trouble sleeping at night, worrying about perceived problems, or replaying the day’s sad notes.
- You have been hurt many times since you were a small child, so you settle for less because you believe that you are fundamentally not worth it. And if good things happen to you, well you believe that you are an impostor. Your good fortune is a result of others not knowing the real you.
Of course, speaking to a professional can provide a revelation. However, if you do not have the luxury of seeing a psychotherapist, then perhaps simply becoming aware that you might be wearing a mask could help you remove it. Consider confiding in a friend or family member when you are worried, anxious or doubting yourself. Note that self-suppression can be damaging physically and mentally. Allow yourself to express righteous indignation, or even better, say no to people trespassing on your time and space.
As soon as you begin to descend the stairs of sadness, turn around and try running up those stairs. Instead of faking a smile, try exercising to fuel a genuine smile as you turn stress into strength. The value of exercise is that you feel more confident and know that a post workout is an ideal time to think of solutions as opposed to linger on self-defeating thoughts.
For more information on managing your stress and reclaiming your life read my book, Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life
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