Monday, June 27, 2011


"Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul."
~ Oscar Wilde

Rene Magritte: "The Invention of Life"
Late last year I developed a strange and enduring form of laryngitis. Although my voice was completely gone for just a few days,  I could only speak in a monotone and was unable to laugh aloud for two or three months afterward.

As the problem dragged on, I realized my flattened voice was flattening my mood. And then it occurred to me — why wouldn't it? Our senses give us feedback all the time. Without a range of vocal expression, I sounded like a joyless zombie and gradually started to feel like one, too.

I started looking for scientific studies on the topic — information about how our senses influence our moods. Nothing I've come across touches on the forced silence of laryngitis, but an article titled "Smile! It Could Make You Happier" in the September 2009 issue of Scientific American had some interesting things to say about the way our facial expressions effect our moods. (You can link to an abstract here.)

Among the findings the article discusses:
  • frowning increases sensitivity to pain
  • people who were given Botox injections to prevent them from frowning were happier
  • when Botox prevented people from smiling, they felt depressed

My point here: Our bodies are trying to tell us things, and we are telling things to our bodies even when we don't realize it. I for one plan to pay more attention.

"Seeing, hearing and feeling are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle."
~ Walt Whitman