Smiling can defuse stress.
StockSnap / Pixabay – Smiling can defuse stress.

How often do you let things go? I mean those things that bounce around you daily. We are bombarded with stressful situations that seem unending. We hold the emotional baggage associated with those people and events and never let it go.

A little over a year and a half ago, my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago. It’s a five-hundred-mile walk across northern Spain. We walked it in thirty days. I announced to my wife that this journey was my “Let It Go!” tour. No matter what happened, I was not allowing anything to upset me.

The first day was the worst day of our trek. It was an unbelievable day. It’s not worth writing about the details. Each time I felt frustrated, annoyed or aggravated, I would tell myself in a loud voice – LET IT GO! I got excellent that first day letting the stressors fall off my back.

Stress collects in our body, and we don’t realize it. Over time, more stress accumulates, and we may begin to see or feel the effects. There are five major areas of the body where stress manifests itself as pain, tension and sometimes rigidity. The head areas (jaw, neck, and face), the shoulders, the lungs (and heart), the abdominal regions and the pelvic area are the five areas most often storing stress-induced energy.

We could ‘let it go’ easily. The body can self-correct itself. But, that stored up stressful energy will start physically affecting your joints, tissues, and organs. Our brain is one of the first to be affected by these unwanted emotional stressors. Our bodies create the stress hormone, cortisol. Chronic, long-term accumulation of cortisol affects the brain with memory loss and depression.

Cortisol has been measured in hair follicles. The University of Western Ontario study showed higher levels of cortisol in hair follicles in patients who had experienced heart attacks. We know that stress can induce a heart attack. We now know that it can be measured.

We’ve seen people who are stressed. What we don’t see is the hormones flooding their bodies. On the good side, stress helps us to focus our attention, sharpen our vision and prepares us for immediate action. We can use stress to power us through a problem. But, not used positively, the massive amounts of cortisol begin to blossom into storing fat, primarily around our abdominal area. We have four times the storage capability to store fat in those areas.

Ever rub a stiff neck and try to relieve a little of the tension that has built up there? Neck and back strain caused by stress can add to more pain and even stress-induced headaches. My daughter is one who is subject to stress-induced headaches. We go to a Tai Chi massage and let their magic fingers released that pent-up tension in the major muscle groups in the body. It’s incredible how quickly headaches, sore necks, back pain and similar problems disappear.

Stress affects our DNA. The ends of our chromosomes are called telomeres. Stress hormones cause our telomeres to shorten more quickly than usual. This reduces the life of that cell.

Letting things roll off you can be done as quickly as smiling. Think of the last time you were at a stop-light that you know has a short on-off frequency. If you don’t get through within the first few cars, you will be sitting through that stop-light again.

The light turns green, and no one is moving. You are crunched for time and need to make that traffic cycle. But, nothing is happening. Someone honks a horn. The cars start to move. You know you will be stuck there for another minute or two. Stress builds instantly. A simple smile will counter that stress.

Stress causes our facial muscles to flex. The reverse can be done – taking a positive image and forcing it back through to the brain. You can’t have a positive and negative thought in your mind at the same time. Keep smiling and you will push the negative feeling (stress-induced emotion) from taking control. Shouting, LET IT GO also helps with the smile.

Smile, let it go and control your emotions. You will have a healthier life.


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