Former Black Sticks captain Gemma McCaw has made a career out of being fit and healthy, so she knows a thing or two about wellness. Each week Gemma shares her tips on how to live healthier, from getting started on your fitness to how to increase your water intake. This week she gives her advice on how to think positively, including positive thinking exercises that are thought to fight anxiety and depression.
On a break from my positive psychology course in Byron Bay a few weeks ago, I decided to get some fresh air and hit the beach for a jog.
I often try to smile at passers-by, but having just been learning all about the science of wearing a positive grin, I thought I’d make a conscious effort and smile at everyone who crossed my path.
Some people were intrigued and one person frowned, but most were more than happy to reciprocate. At one point, I looked up and saw a couple frolicking in the waves wearing nothing but their own smiles. Suddenly, I let out a loud scream. I had just stood on a jellyfish!
The skinny-dippers looked on in alarm – I tried to explain but could only laugh. The thing is, smiles are contagious – and when I shared this story with my class, we all had a good chuckle.
Smiling starts a positive loop of happiness. When we grin, our muscles contract, which fires a signal to the brain to stimulate our reward system and increase the level of happy hormones, or endorphins, in our system. The more we smile, the more others will too. As my nana always says, you’re never fully dressed without a smile!
Be kind to yourself
Sometimes it’s easy to love others, but we can be our own worst critics. Cultivate your inner advocate, take time out for yourself each day and watch your inner language. Imagine how you would speak to someone you love, then treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion.
Try something new
Couples or friends who do new and exciting things together have better-quality relationships. Do what makes you happy – try out a dance lesson, take in a show or head out on a beautiful nature walk. It’ll make you smile.
Turn that frown upside down
Smiling interrupts the brain’s tendency to think negatively. When you smile often enough, you end up rewiring your brain into more positive patterns.
Being open allows others to relax and build trust. In your next conversation, actively try to open your ears, eyes and body to the conversation and see what happens. Use smiles and gestures, lean in and nod, and share in people’s good news with an open heart and mind.
Take a trip down memory lane
Good memories always make us smile. Meet up with someone you care about and do something to evoke your happiest times gone by. Feel that special bond and enjoy
the micro moments of love as you reminisce.