We have all heard about the damaging effects of stress on our bodies and how our mind-body connection can lead to illness and disease. Perhaps by living in the moment, being aware of our emotions and feelings as they arise, we may find a way towards feelings of relief and calm. When I came across these simple steps, I felt that I could help myself and those I care about by showing them 3 small steps we can all do to help ourselves in the most stressful of times.
The Power Of The Mind-Body Connection
As explained by Psychotherapist Daniela Tempesta, feeling stressed, scared, or sad can cause our bodies to feel muscle tension increased heart rate, increased body temperature, shortness of breath, etc. This is a result of the fight or flight response in the brain which, when we are in physical danger helps us greatly, but the rest of the time it is an unnecessary alarm. However, we are able to send a message to the brain that there is nothing to fear and that all is well by making subtle yet powerful movements in the body. These are done in three different ways: change of posture, smiling and placing a hand on our hearts to slow down the body’s stress response and sooth the negative emotions we maybe experiencing.
Here are the simplest of simple things, that you can do less than 2 minutes to enhance your mood.
Smile – When you don’t feel like doing so!
When Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy,” he was really on to something. Research by Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman at the University of Kansas demonstrated that smiling can alter our stress response in difficult situations. Their study indicated that smiling, even if one is not feeling happy, can slow heart rate and decrease perceived levels of stress. Smiling sends a signal to the rest of our body that things are okay. So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, try smiling, even if you don’t feel like it. It might just make a difference. (Tip: Try the inner smile meditation to really increase those positive emotions.)
Posture — Sit Up Straight
Altering our posture can also alter how we feel. Reports show that sitting up straight positively influenced people’s feelings of self-confidence, while slumping over had the opposite effect. There is also evidence that holding “power postures” for 120 seconds can create a 20 percent increase in testosterone (helping to boost confidence) and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol (reducing stress). In order to feel these benefits try an open and expansive posture. Take up space, put your hands on your hips and spread your feet or lean back in a chair and spread your arms. Hold the posture for at least two minutes. For more info on this research you can watch TED Talk “Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”
Hand On Your Heart
Touch is also a very powerful healing tool. When we are sad we often turn to others for a hug or to be held. We can actually provide ourselves with some of the same benefits. During a particularly distressing moment try placing a hand on your heart, rubbing your own arms, or massaging your own head. May sound cheesy, but it actually can be very helpful in slowing the body’s stress response. Pairing this with the self-compassionate thoughts such as, “This is really painful right now, but this too shall pass” can help sooth the discomfort of the present moment both physiologically and mentally.
Research has consistently shown that our emotional experience (stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, etc.) can have a negative impact on our health. The mind-body connection is a very powerful one, and when harnessed correctly, we can use our mind to help heal the ailments of the body. And likewise, when we are in emotional distress, we can use the body to shift our feelings.
So next time you are feeling overwhelmed by whatever is arising for you emotionally, try standing up straight, smiling, or putting a hand on your heart. For a super boost, try all three.
For more see: 3 Things you can do in 2 Minutes to improve your mood by Daniela Tempesta.