How To Be Happy: An eye-opening way to regain the look of youth

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The Independent Online

Q. 'I'm 35 and it gets me down when I look in the mirror. I'm not old, so why is this?' G.

Step 1: Faces convey the essence of our psychological, emotional and sexual appeal, so it is not surprising that we become a tad despondent when we feel our radiance is fading. Research confirms that facial attractiveness diminishes between the ages of 15 and 35, suggesting that for most of our lives few of us are as attractive as when we were very young. This is known as the "infantile schema", identified by ethologist Konrad Lorenz, who discovered that there are idealised facial characteristics that are universally appealing for both men and women. These include large, wide-set eyes, small noses, high cheekbones set in a smooth complexion and a slender distance between full lips and neat chin, creating childlike characteristics which provoke loving feelings of protectiveness in adults.

Step 2: These qualities, abundant in our youth, can be replicated, prolonging the infantile schema, in a few simple steps. We shouldn't feel guilty when wanting to make the most of ourselves. Alleviating shame is one of few variables that can have a lasting effect on our feelings of satisfaction and wellbeing. Identify mature faces which inspire you and copy their cosmetic tricks, remembering that character and personality are always more important than "cuteness".

Step 3: Anthropologist David Givens, in Love Signals, claims that female beauty activates the same male cerebral pleasure centres as "chocolate, cocaine and Cabernet". But we do not have to be young or beautiful to retain our powers of attraction. Social psychology research consistently finds that faces are judged as desirable by being positively and expressively animated. Well-groomed brows raised in an inviting arch mimic the universally attractive eyebrow "flash" that denotes happiness, approachability and enthusiasm. Lips are well worth enhancing as they are glanced at frequently, while eyes significantly demand and hold our attention. When looking in the mirror, notice how expressive and appealing yours are and enhance them to their most magnetic effect. Nothing is more uplifting and alluring than gazing into sensitive, welcoming, warm and communicative eyes, regardless of age or beauty.

Cecilia is a psychologist and broadcaster. If you'd like her to answer your problems email her at c.dfelice@independent.co.uk

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