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Secrets for Success Under the Mask

Do not quarantine the soul in disguising the face.




The scarves and masks of the global pandemic hide most of the important features of the human face. The emotional effects of this life-changing masquerade could transform the future.

The structure of social routines -- like smiling in public or removing facial hair -- could be eclipsed in darkness for months to come. Other challenges also exist. Here are tips to tackle these challenges in a mask-wearing world.

Communication

Wearing a mask and social distancing are predominant weapons against the Coronavirus. But the mask should not be used to undermine the essentials of mental self care.

The common visual elements that occur without a mask should be engaged in -- especially the signals of social friendliness. Make an effort to indulge in facial expressions that encourage good cheer -- like smiling or grinning -- despite the camouflage hiding your mouth. The free exchange of pleasant emotion triggers a cascade of brain chemicals designed to stimulate happiness and shared exhilaration.

Psychological science backs this up: Research on embodied cognition reveals that if you want to feel better, often the shortest route to that effect is to craft a smile. If you want to experience more self-confidence, trimming hair follicles each morning should promote your self-image. The hidden effect of these natural habits should lead to increased satisfaction and well-being.

Make no mistake: Others around you will also benefit from the positive results. Human perception runs deep and often penetrates the unseen. It takes more than a mask to block the transmission of social expression.



The mask as social disguise

Wearing a mask can be a pleasant escape. Introverts might relish the thought of hiding their facial expressions under a sheath. On the other hand, extroverts might feel cheated at the same prospect! Perhaps the solution for both is to pretend the mask isn’t there. Act as if the world can see.

The mask as avatar

Masquerading images of self-expression blanket the landscape with remarkable designs. Remember that certain masks are like avatars, reflecting a depiction of the inner self through a spectrum of facades that can touch the human observer in unique fashion. The image of a particular avatar can also influence the wearer of the mask, in a conscious (or unconscious) adoption of a particular mood. So it’s important to be mindful of the possible consequences.

Mask etiquette

Common sense should dictate the rules of social appearance. For example, a mask that is illustrated with skull or shark teeth could signal to others an implicit threat. There’s no advantage in frightening the innocent.

Talking to yourself in public

Talking to yourself can boost determination and the ability to focus. Now you can do it in public! No one will notice, if you keep your voice low. You can mutter and grumble to your heart’s delight, without the fear of embarrassment. (The movements of your lips cannot be seen -- so you have an exceptional advantage over ventriloquists!)

Exercise a flexible attitude

Re-imagine the mask to be a transparent illusion during social situations that call for brandishing a smile. On the flip side, embrace it for opportunities in creative self-expression.

Recruit a sense of humor to encourage the task of self-persistence. Consider the mask for additional uses -- Sun protection. Insect repellent. Cold-temperature shield. Nose-picking deflector.

Mask maintenance

Be sure to clean and replace the mask at regular intervals and to treat the article with respect. Ensure that it remains an effective instrument against the Coronavirus, and consider the importance of comfort and fit.

End note

On a recent excursion inside a Super Stop and Shop, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t wearing a mask at all. In retrospect, I felt like a nudist in the center of Times Square! On the following night, I actually dreamed of being naked in public.

According to most experts, the N-95 can be a tireless chaperone of self care. Commit to the practice of good mask psychology.

REFERENCES

Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -- Embodied Cognition
Smile: A Powerful Tool
AVATAR PSYCHOLOGY
It’s Totally Normal (and Healthy) to Talk to Yourself

About John DiPrete
John DiPrete has contributed to Psych Central, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Medical Hypotheses, and other outlets.


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