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Zen & The Art of Smiling by Garry Jones

Garry Jones explains that the simple act of smiling can make an enormous difference to your wellbeing


My all-consuming passion for martial arts complements my work in mind coaching. They are intertwined in one particular way. The Zen quest of discovering the mind and body relationship.

I relish the application of hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming in developing fighters in Muay Thai boxing and mixed martial arts to study this relationship. Why? Because the realm of full contact combat is an ultimate test of the theories, strategies and techniques used in coaching and development. If it works under the pressure of a full contact fight, it will work at home, work or general daily life. So yes, the application in martial arts has relevance to us all.

The boxing ring then becomes my laboratory of controlled pressure testing. There are numerous day-to-day issues that are all experienced in the boxing ring. Let us focus on one. FEAR.

Maybe we could label that stress.

We are comfortable saying fear when it is something large and of big impact. May I suggest the smallest of stress is still fear, though there are many levels of it? Science studies confirm this. Chemically our response is the same if the stress is large or small.

During my seminar presentation recently at The Best You Expo I gave a real time example of this. I showed how our view of reality becomes totally distorted by the impact of stress, a perceived stress at that. Have you found that it is good to be wrong? The audience was wrong and it saved them experiencing a great deal of pain.

It is good when your recollection of the past, imagined terrible outcomes or current view of how things are turns out to be wrong, in the best possible way. Mark Twain quoted,

“I have lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” Quite.

Here are some facts about stress in the UK.

Stress, anxiety and depression accounted for 13.4m lost days to business in 2011 (H.S.E figures), much more than musculoskeletal which includes backache

– MIND the mental health charity has the cost to UK industry at £8bn

– The biggest killer of men under 50 years old is suicide

It has big and very personal consequences, not being able to manage our fears. Let us return to the fighters as an example to address this. Modern labels of Zen are ‘the zone’, ‘the flow’ or mindfulness. Whatever label we give it the experience is one of being totally in the present moment. A fighter does not have the physical ability to react to an attack. The process time of the brain and a physical response will be too slow to defend or attack back. If the fighter gets lost in a world of remembering or imagining what may happen, there will be one result. Pain. It is direct, instant and unforgiving.

General life does not perhaps have such immediacy but the outcome is the same. Failure. I am not advocating we only live in the moment. What I am advocating is to make 80 per cent of our time action. Powerful word action. More powerful I suggest than mindfulness. We do action.

It is different from ‘take action’ which implies in the future. Action is now. Returning to the arena of a fight, action is defending, moving, feinting, attacking, breathing, observing.

What action can we take in life to reduce fear/stress?

There are things you do instinctively as a coach. In teaching martial arts I have understood from the beginning that supreme performance comes from a relaxed body and mind state. The simple physics of power involves speed and mass. The mass of a body is constant. The speed is achieved through a relaxed body.

How? How to be relaxed. I have always taught: Smile while doing the activity, in the martial art example it could be to punch or kick for instance.

Try it now, smile. Now tense your upper body and try to smile. No, that is a grimace. The smile is a direct feedback that you are relaxed. (Research numerous science papers to confirm the results of smiling).

Simple and effective. Like my martial arts preferences I like simple and effective. Smile while doing an activity. You have no need to be happy to smile. Now if this works in a zero tolerant environment, it should correlate to work in daily life.

The worse that can happen is you feel better for smiling. I suggest a smile will increase your performance in work, relationships and life. It is a small act of action. Smile. In the now. In the present time, where a physical action draws your attention to your mind and body.

Try it for 24 hours. Nothing taxing,  and record your results. Just 24 hours of three simple acts to succeed. Breathe, smile, do. Good luck to
a brighter future.

Garry Jones is a master practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming and hypnosis.

The Best You

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