I don’t know about you but when I was little I often heard people saying “We’ll we just have to grin and bear it”. And they just got on with sorting ‘it’ out. It turns out there is more than a grain of truth behind the saying.
Recent research is showing that grinning actually does help us bear things more easily and recover from stressful situations more quickly.
Psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas reported in the Psychological Science journal on their recent research into smiling and stressful situations. I won’t go into the details but it involved chopsticks and various tests like putting your hand into a bucket full of iced water. They found that smiling helped to lower the heart rate and reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response.
As we discover more about how the body works, so we are learning that we can trigger positive physiological and emotional responses even when we aren’t really feeling that happy. Their research showed that it can be enough to contract the muscles in the face to replicate a smile – although a ‘true’ smile had the greater positive impact on the body and mind.
Other things can also help us manage our stress response in a more effective way. Five of my favourites are:
- Saying to myself “I choose to respond more calmly”. It can feel quite liberating to ‘choose’ how you respond to people and situations.
- Thinking to myself “I may not like it but they are doing the best they can with the resources they have available to them”. This doesn’t mean that I don’t try and change things. It does mean I deal with it from a more balanced and calmer perspective.
- Deep breathing – taking 5- 7 slow, deeper breathes in and out through the nose helps to relax the mind and body.
- Going for a brisk walk – particularly along the beach (or imagining yourself on a favourite walk). It helps distance you from the situation.
- Funnily enough, something called the inner smile. A simple closed-eye process whereby you imagine a smile forming inside. Feel it developing without it showing on your face and then gradually allow it to move up and show on your face. Sit with the feeling for a short while then open your eyes and get on with things.
There are many stress management techniques you could use from being more assertive to planning and time management but practicing these simple steps will increase your ability to cope with things that you regard as stressful.
So the next time the kids are starting to get on your nerves or you are cut up at the roundabout or you feel under pressure at work just ‘Grin’. Your heart will thank you.
by Anne Morrison © 2012
Anne Morrison, MBSCH, Clinical and Cognitive Behaviour Hypnotherapist, lives in Whitley Bay and works in North Shields. She is also a volunteer therapist at Hospice Care North Northumberland providing support to patients and their relatives. She can be contacted by phone on 0191 300 0933 or via her website www.annemorrison.co.uk.