Thursday, 13 January 2022

Ten reasons to smile more

For most of the time, smiling and laughing are involuntary responses to something that we find funny or that makes us feel happy, however, they can also be a conscious action. Whether you smile voluntarily or involuntarily, they can both have the same effect on our mental and physical wellbeing. 

It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine and there’s a good reason for this. Many studies have shown that both smiling and laughing can have a positive impact. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, states that: “in addition to a stress-relief effect, laughter can bring about feelings of being uplifted or fulfilled to showing that the act of laughter can lead to immediate increases in heart rate, respiratory rate, respiratory depth, and oxygen consumption. These increases are then followed by a period of muscle relaxation, with a corresponding decrease in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.”

So, if you’re feeling under the weather and are in need of a natural reliever, here are some more reasons to smile:

Smiling can lift your mood

When we smile, it triggers neuropeptides in your brain, which can have a positive effect on your emotions. Like dopamine and serotonin, smiling can elevate your mood. But you can also trick your mind into feeling happy just by making yourself smile or laugh.

Smiling can boost the immune system

When you smile, your body automatically feels more relaxed and its this relaxation that strengthens your immune system and makes it work more effectively. So, when you smile more, you could be fending off colds and flu without even realising it.

Smiling can lower blood pressure

As cited in the study above by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, when we laugh it initially increases our heart rate and breathing which then lowers our blood pressure.

Smiling is a natural painkiller

Smiling releases serotonin and endorphins in the brain. These are natural chemicals that are produced to make us feel good and improve our mood. But as well as elevating our feelings of wellbeing, they can also reduce physical pain.

Smiling can help you live longer

Because smiling has such a positive effect on our mental and physical wellbeing, it can also contribute to living a longer life. When we’re feeling happy, we may see improved health and it’s believed that this could increase our overall lifespan by several years.

Smiling is contagious

Not only can smiling have a positive effect on our own health, but it’s also contagious and can elevate the mood of others. When we see other people happy, our brain recognises this and often makes us imitate their smile or laugh subconsciously.

Smiling makes you look and feel more vibrant

There’s a reason why we are drawn to happy people – smiling gives the impression that you are a more positive person and fun to be around so naturally, others will want to spend more time around you. This, too, can have a knock-on effect on how you feel about yourself, making you feel more self-confident.

Smiling helps you feel positive

Even when a smile or laughter is forced, just the action of moving the smile muscles in your face can increase feelings of positivity as this will provide the necessary feedback to tell your brain that you are happy. In turn, your brain then tells your body to act accordingly, making you feel more positive emotions.

Smiling can relieve stress

When we’re stressed, not only does it show in our expressions and bodily movements, but it can also have long-term effects on our health. By smiling, even if you don’t feel like doing it, it can benefit you mentally and physically. Studies have reported that smiling can have a positive impact on our heart rate which can help to relieve feelings of stress.

Smiling can reduce the risk of heart disease

Smiling or laughing can help lower your blood pressure and this is a positive factor in reducing the risk of developing heart disease.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

Ways to embrace change

While some people continually seek out new adventures or experiences in life, others find it easier and less stressful to maintain a peaceful life of comfort and dependability. However, whichever way of life you intend to live, life inevitably throws us curveballs that are out of our control and we may face unwelcome changes that we aren’t mentally prepared for.

There are lots of situations where you could find yourself facing change, for example:

  • You might have been made redundant from your job
  • A close family member or friend might have passed away
  • You may have to sell your home and move somewhere new
  • An unforeseen accident might have left you unable to continue with your usual routine.

Whatever the reason for change in your life, when it happens unexpectedly and you aren’t mentally prepared, it can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety and even depression. These kinds of unexpected stressful events are also believed to be the cause of adjustment disorder.

Embracing change

Firstly, it’s important to realise that many things in life are out of our control and no matter how much we would like to be the master of our own destiny, we must accept that now and again we have to adjust. Initially, it might seem impossible to put a positive spin on a situation or to visualise how we can make the best of a bad, or different, situation. But you’ll be surprised at how we can turn things around and focus on positive outcomes.

Unless you’re the kind of person who thrives on new experiences, facing change can be challenging and uncomfortable. It might also mean you have to get out of old routines and patterns of behaviour, which in itself can be daunting. But change can also be rewarding and beneficial, it’s just that you’ve yet to recognise these benefits. So how can you learn to deal with changes that you haven’t planned for and embrace a new direction in life?

Mentally prepare yourself

Carefully consider what the change will mean to your life and how it will affect your daily routine and long-term future. It might seem difficult at first but the longer you refuse to face your fears, the worse it becomes. Once you start to rationalise the situation, reflecting on and planning for worst-case scenarios, you’ll feel more prepared to deal with the unknown. But also consider the benefits and positive opportunities that might arise from this.

You could also try meditation and visualisation to help you feel more at peace with what’s to come. Visualisation is a great way to imagine a situation and create a positive outcome in your mind.

Respond to the imminent change

Once you’ve spent some time thinking about the impending situation, you’ll need to take action. Depending on what the change involves, there are certain things you might need to put in place. By being proactive, adapting and facing the situation head on, you’ll start to feel more in control. Sudden change can be scary because it feels like you’re not in control of your destiny so when you’re being proactive, you can begin to take back the feeling of control, which will give you a more positive outlook and mindset.

Reflect and learn from the experience

When you’re confronted with sudden change, you might find it hard to imagine the benefits. But as you adapt and work through the situation, you’ll be able to look back on the experience and recognise all the positive changes you’ve made. Each time you overcome a difficult situation, you’ll feel stronger and more equipped to deal with any future changes that might come your way. Take a look at the bigger picture and make a note of what you learned from stepping out of your comfort zone. How did you feel at the time, what did you achieve, and what skills and strengths did you develop during the process?

At the end of the day, it’s not the change that’s important, it’s how you responded to a situation that made you feel frightened at the time.