What determines how old a person looks? Is it a person’s age or is it a person’s emotional well-being? A recent study, “Be Happy Not Sad for Your Youth: The Effect of Emotional Expression on Age Perception”, took a scientific stab at the answer. The study’s authors, Norah C. Hass, Trent D. Weston, and Seung-Lark Lim, propose that when you are complimenting someone on their looks, subconsciously you are complimenting his/her level of happiness or their level of acceptance with their lives.
Age is often used to compare how one is doing relative to others in one’s age group. This is somewhat puzzling, since one doesn’t truly know what the average person in one’s age group looks like. Still, it appears that most people have an unconscious picture of the average peer. The comparison, then, isn’t with physical age; people compare others emotional well-being to how well they look – “for their age”. A happy disposition—smiling and other means of giving an impression of a healthy emotional state—produces an appearance of youth and happiness that “subtracts” extra years off one’s age.
Nevertheless, not everyone has had the privilege of being taught emotional regulation or emotion identification; most of us glide through life dependent on the control our emotions have over us, rather than learning how to control or accept our emotions. The challenge emerges when we are being controlled by emotions that devastate our lives; emotions that keep us from being able to live the lives we were so eager to build.
Park Ridge Psychological Services can help you regain—or establish—this control. One of our fundamental principles is that almost all social-emotional problems are essentially normal responses to abnormal situations.
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