Stop looking so mad all the time!
July 18, 2007 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I have noticed that over the past few years I have been carrying a lot of facial tension. It causes me to look like I'm either scowling or frowning. Please help me relax my face. I can't afford the botox route so natural, mental, or other free(ish) remedies only please. Thanks!
posted by MayNicholas to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Frownies when you aren't in public.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:39 PM on July 18, 2007

Ask a friend for a facial massage.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:40 PM on July 18, 2007

A move that helps me release tension in my jaw: loosely pressing my tongue against the front of my hard palate (not as far forward as teeth or jaw). It seems to signal that you're about to open your mouth and the jaw muscles relax. It doesn't work for me every time but a few times I have had a quick palpable release.

Also like the massage idea. Even massaging your own face can be quite relaxing. I do hard circles on the sides of my face from jaws through temples to help keep myself awake or focussed.

How about smililng, does that release any of the tension? Might at least counter the "scowling" reputation.
posted by olecranon at 6:18 PM on July 18, 2007

There was a great article about frownies in the oprah magazine. If you go to, there is a link to it (which is crashing my browser but maybe you will have better luck). The gist is that this woman tried using these tape-on paper things that prevent scowling and - to her surprise - her mood improved. There's also been research that botoxing your facial muscles so that you can't scowl improves mood. It is a strange thing.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:22 PM on July 18, 2007

i have a similar problem. my friends call it 'pain face'. sort of a squinty-eyed smile that happens when i'm thinking about pretty much anything, especially complicated things. once i was aware i was doing it fairly often, i started to take notice of it and now try to minimize it. it causes me headaches.

since i've been aware of it, what i try to do is this:
- notice you are tensing up your facial muscles; figure out what is causing it, be it pain, deep thought, or stress.
- interrupt the cause; clear your mind, think about stuff that makes you happy, take a deep breath
- make a conscious effort to relax your face; this is important. just let your face go slack. you can even let your jaw hang loose if you don't mind looking all slack-jawed, it helps.

also, ottereroticist is correct, facial massages will help, as will any good massage to lower overall tension.
posted by knowles at 6:27 PM on July 18, 2007

The generic self-therapy for this kind of thing is called progressive relaxation.
posted by nanojath at 6:39 PM on July 18, 2007

I find I carry a lot of tension in my ears and around the general ear-area of my head-- an acupuncturist friend of mine told me there were something like 20 acupressure points in the ear.

Maybe you could try gently rubbing your ears with thumb and forefinger in small circles-- or get a friend to. I find it really helps with headaches and stress and leaves me feeling 'fresh'.

Having said that, I scowl a lot too. I guess if you just try to stay conscious of what your face is doing it might help-- say if you're on the train or bus, ask 'am I scowling? Oh, I am! I better wriggle my eyebrows and try to shuffle it off my face!'
posted by gerls at 6:41 PM on July 18, 2007

I love my scowl, but it's true that Scowlies will improve your attitude. There's been some recent research on that front (no time to google now sorry mangs)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:45 PM on July 18, 2007

er, *Frownies
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:45 PM on July 18, 2007

There are specializes in this arena that sell videos, e.g.

at Amazon. And if you plug-in the words 'face exercises' in a search engine you should find some websites that post remedies
posted by DudeAsInCool at 9:04 PM on July 18, 2007

I have no intention whatsoever of trying to freak you out, and what I'm about to suggest is extreme, without question. Still, it's very top of mind for me, and so it popped into my head and I'd feel remiss if I didn't mention it.

Have you also noticed a reduction in the speed and flexibility of your gait, perhaps a hint of a shuffle, and have people who know you said anything about your facial expressions not only being dour, but inflexible (like a mask?)

If so -- and again, this is very extreme, so please don't freak out! -- that's a typical early symptom of various illnesses such as Parkinson's and LB Dementia. Just something to keep an eye on, if you're of the age where things such as this become a concern -- although for my father (which is why this is top of mind) his LB Dementia began to manifest while in his high-fifties in this fashion.

Just something to keep an eye on, and perhaps ask your doctor about if my description applies, and if the approaches being suggested by other folks don't seem to be working for you.
posted by davejay at 10:07 PM on July 18, 2007

Response by poster: I'm only 30, so davejay I think I can rule all that out. That and the fact the grumpy pout seems to run in the family. I will give those frownies a try. Does anyone know if you can wear them when you sleep? Apparently I scrunch my eyebrows in my sleep too...
posted by MayNicholas at 4:27 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a kind of cheat I adapted from my brief-yet-heavy days of Vipassana. Without going into the mechanics of ānāpāna breathing [inandofitself a beautiful simple way of attaining a calmness, no a lucidity when utilized], this is the hack:

Mentally inventory and divide the surface of your head into approximate sensory palates [like back of head, top of head, temples, brows, jaw, cheeks, etc. Get as detailed as you can stand, but don't get nuts]. While taking even, regular breaths, mentally command each of the inventoried places to relax, one at a time, from the top of your head to the underside of your jaw or the base of your neck, or even down to the collarbone since there are muscles there that affect facial features as well. Hang in out in this relaxed state for a little while, clench up your face really fast, release it, shake it out, rinse, lather, repeat, what have you, and then examine your face and your mood simultaneously. It might help some, and takes no longer than the length of a cigarette [approximately ten minutes, but I'm notoriously slow.] Hopefully this will help a little.
posted by Minus215Cee at 4:47 AM on July 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

Reading Blink not long ago, one of the interesting side notes was that in studying and mimicking facial expressions, researchers found facial expressions influenced their mood. When practicing unhappy and angry expressions all day, they were unhappy. When doing happy laughing expressions all day, they were happier.
posted by TravellingDen at 7:50 AM on July 19, 2007

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