Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

My friends always think I am mad by my facial expression because I have a serious face all the time. I don’t mean to look that way; I am perfectly happy inside. I certainly don’t want others to think I am upset or mad by my relaxed serious face. Is this simply a natural aging trait? 



Dear Misunderstood,

My personal name for this I call it a “drummer face,” but you are describing what is a natural occurrence as we age, some sooner than others. You are most likely talking about the expression your face is making while you are unaware of it or concentrating on your activity or task at hand. If you ever look at a drummer’s face while they play the drums, you see that they are concentrating so heavily their face changes and becomes sullen.

Structurally, things are going on behind the scenes with age. The fat loses volume, clumps up and shifts downward. Meanwhile, other parts of the face gain fat, particularly the lower half. This is all a natural process.

Did you know that if you hold a pencil horizontally between your lips and curl your lips up around it, you will instantly ignite your brain with a shot of dopamine? This dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. which makes you FEEL happy immediately. 

Purposely making your face smile or smirk when you catch yourself with a more frowny face through the day can actually help create a more happy face from repetition until it becomes a habit. I personally smile big after waking up and still lying in my bed in the morning even before coffee just to have the first smile of the day on purpose!

Resting face can happen when you are very focused and our skin elasticity changes, which just intensifies the serious facial expression. As we age, the skin suffers natural wear-and-tear, just like the rest of our body. Sun exposure, along with other factors, can expedite the aging process and most of us know that skin protection and moisturizing matters, male or female. But regardless of the condition of your skin, it is your outward demeanor that people can sense and typically judge you by. 

A family pet can many times feel the atmosphere of a serious conversation and can be very sensitive to your happiness or sadness, not by your facial expression alone – only your body language and actions.

Body language can be a bigger indication of being mad or upset along with a facial expression to support the impression. 

Smile on purpose first thing in the morning and throughout the day when you catch yourself with a frown and see if it makes a difference. It likely will. 

Barb Rock is a retired mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at or text to (253) 377-9668.

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