Facing the ups and downs of life is a normal part of the ride. Clearly some individuals will face steeper challenges than others. How we tackle these problems will vary according to what we know, our coping skills and resilience at that particular time.
From where do the ways in which we deal with these issues emerge? We are certainly not taught in school how to ‘change gears’ when we feel below par. There is no lesson on maintaining a positive outlook despite the circumstance or a GCSE on self-preservation.
By and large we learn our coping skills by observing and mirroring the responses of significant others, listening to the advice of elders and develop ways of responding whilst on the job. We then create strategies that fit with our current belief and world philosophy. Let us not also forget the essential ingredients of our make-up (genetics) and how they interact with the environment as part of this complex process of adaptation (epigenetics).
Here are some useful strategies that are we commonly use in the clinic to help individuals move forwards, and to fortify healthy notions of self for the benefit of physical health. Go on, change your chemistry and feel good!
1. Practicing a mindful approach to life: be aware of what is happening now with all your senses as opposed to living in the past or future in your head.
2. Smile. At others, whether you know them or not.
3. Hold a pencil between your teeth to activate ‘smiling’ muscles. Look at yourself in the mirror.
4. Watch a favourite funny film. Laughter changes your internal chemistry for the better.
5. The left ear stroke. This is simple conditioning but is a way of changing how you feel. Think of something really good and positive. When you have that warm, glowing feeling that signifies pleasure, stroke your left ear with your left index finger. Practice this often until you find that you can stroke the ear and evoke the very same positive feeling. Once you are able to do this, it means that you have ready access to positive emotions whenever you need.
6. Quiet time. Sister Wendy was recently interviewed, making a pertinent point about the lack of time we spend sitting quietly without distraction of the phone, Internet and television.
7. Observe others who look happy. Watch their expressions and body language. Allow your mirror neurons to soak up all the positive vibes.
8. Surround yourself with positive thinking people. Or at least ponder on those who have an optimistic outlook and manner. Read about successful or inspiring people, noting how they achieved their goals. It is usually by perseverance and hard work.