I am driving to Boston right now for my monthly training…..
Oh wait, no I’m not. I’m at home with a flat tire, waiting for my husband to come home and help me out. I’ll be, um, a little late today.
Instead of being on the road, I’m travelling into blog land, with a quest to see what I can discover and share with you.
I let a couple people in my group know that I wasn’t coming on time and when I was finishing one email I added “grrrr” but then I also added “smile” (no emoticon, the world smile, there is something more calming to me about writing it out).
Smiling doesn’t always mean we like something.
Yes, we smile when we’re happy, and we smile when something moves us or touches us. But smiling can actually be a skill that we learn that helps us have a choice about how we perceive and respond to things that we experience.
It helps us accept something for what it really truly is rather than focusing on what we wish it were, sometimes referred to as “radical acceptance”. You can read more about this idea in this interview with Tara Brach on Radical Acceptance.
The mindfulness practice of half-smiling.
A “half-smile” is a lovely mindfulness practice that I first learned from Thich Nhat Hanh. Here are his instructions for using this practice when irritated (from The Miracle of Mindfulness):
When you realize you’re irritated, half-smile at once. Inhale and exhale quietly, maintaining the half smile for three breaths.
He also suggests using it when you wake in the morning before you get out of bed and while listening to music. You can try it anywhere, anytime.
Research is finding that there are physiological we get from smiling that help us both mentally and physically. You can learn more in this blog post by Karen Kleiman.
But, why don’t you take a minute and try it for yourself?
YOUR BODY KNOWS
I’d like to invite you to take a moment to try smiling as a way of dealing with irritation. Read over the instructions first and then feel free to take as much or little time as you’d like. Get comfortable. Be curious.
1. Identify some irritation.
If you happen to know you’re irritated with something right now, that’s great, you’re ready to go. If you don’t feel frustrated with something at this moment, let yourself think back over the last few days and find an example of a time that you did have some irritation.
2. Paint a picture for yourself.
When you think about the source of your irritation, allow yourself to be aware of the details of what is happening and what you feel. What are your thoughts about it? Your emotional response? And what’s happening in your body? Tension, “buzzy” energy, static? You may notice what feels comfortable or uncomfortable, but try not to judge those experiences as “good” or “bad”.
3. And, now…. try half-smiling.
It might feel a bit strange or forced, but see if you can let yourself find a bit of a smile in your face. And as you do, see if you can stick with it for three gentle inhales and exhales.
Notice what happens. Again, consider your thoughts, your emotions and your body experience. It might be that you don’t notice anything. That’s ok. You tried it out. Perhaps you’ll give it another go another time.
Finally, notice if there is any sense of possibility for responding to the source of irritation in a way that is different than before or different than how you might usually respond.
If something did change for you that felt good, see if you can really sense into that and find a way to remind yourself to try it out again. Post-it notes, a picture of yourself smiling, a picture of something that makes you smile posted somewhere you’ll see it often… be creative.
Isn’t the body amazing?
I think so. It’s why I use mind-body practice for myself and in my therapy practice. It’s working with the whole system and I find that’s a more effective way to go.
Mind-body health can be supported by so many different practices and resources and if you’re curious, I encourage you to start or continue learning more.
If you are considering therapy for yourself and you’re interested in a free consultation to see if a creative, body-centered approach to therapy might be right for you, please get in touch.