I have been leading workshops for three decades. In that time I have interacted with many people interested is living lighter, happier lives with less stress and more intimacy.
And I have come up with five surefire ways to destress, lighten up, and let go.
Here is the short list I’ve seen work with thousands of people:
By look up I mean notice the sky or the ceiling. Move your eyes in an upward direction. When you look up, things get lighter and less serious.
Myra called me a few years ago. I had never met her but she was at her wits end. Her husband was not well, her kids were half way around the world and she was in a very dark place. She felt alone and lonely. Myra was going down fast, and she needed something to take the pressure off.
I told her to put her eyes up!
She lightened up immediately. I could tell, before I made the suggestion, that she was always looking down. It is amazing how such a simple exercise can not only lighten someone up but perhaps even save their life.
When you put your eyes up, you are more likely to see pictures. Your internal conversations quiet. A picture is worth a thousand words, and her pictures saved Myra from thousands of words about how awful her life was.
Myra had locked into a pattern of listening to everything her mind said and her mind had only tales of woe all day long.
Lightening up worked for Myra and it will work for you.
Look up! It really works to lighten you up.
Laugh a Little
Laughing heals. Norman Cousins taught us that a long time ago; the Marx Brothers probably knew it long before Norman did.
You don’t have to laugh for real, even pretending to laugh lightens you up. Laughing has you breathe more fully and it reminds you that you have a body. Even if your laugh is a little dry and totally fake at first, persist, with practice, you will find a real laugh.
Most people need an outside stimulus, something that inspires before they can laugh.
But you can laugh from the inside, for no reason at all.
Finding the mirth within means that it is yours; you own it and you can lighten up anywhere, anytime no matter what the weather or what the circumstances. Gaining control of your life can begin by gaining control of your funny bone.
Laugh a little today. Chuckle as you struggle in traffic, chortle as you fix dinner or when your mind tells you the end of the world is near. Giggle after you eat a donut, instead of feeling guilty.
Laugh for no reason and watch your co-workers immediately wonder what they are missing. What they are missing is that you can laugh anywhere, anytime without rhyme or reason.
Sing in the Shower
Compose a sweet shower song, to the accompaniment of running water. Don’t worry about the words, let them take care of themselves.
Singing, especially if it is a little nonsense song, a popular hit or an old spiritual opens you to your lighter sides. It also opens those vocal chords, relieving the stress of talking.
I was on a first date when, without warning, she broke into song. It was at that moment I knew for sure I wanted a second date, and to kiss her too.
Singing never results in misunderstanding.
Steve was a word-aholic. He spoke very, very carefully and succinctly. He had a vocabulary and was terrified not to use it. He hid behind his words, never cutting lose.
He spoke up in one of my courses: wanting to know the repercussions of quantum physics on his relationship with time blah, blah, blah.
I interrupted him suggesting that he sing his question. He was confused, but then burst into song. “Row, row, row your boat” that was all he had. But by the end of the day he was belting out his own creations, a budding song writer.
His question melted away, his fancy words held no power over him anymore. Quickly he learned to speak for fun, instead of to defend himself and prove how smart he was.
Begin by singing in the shower. But singing is contagious. In that important business meeting keep your singing to yourself, by singing silently in your own head.
Do you have something terribly serious to say? If so, sing it.
Get moving. (Dance if you dare.)
The perfect partner for singing is dancing.
When you get serious, when you believe your thoughts, or imagine that you are in trouble: Dance.
Just a little hip wiggle lightens you up. And when you can, shake your whole body.
Your body always wants to move. It did in elementary school when you were desk bound and it does now. Two minutes of dancing in the middle of your work day can shake out the old and bring in the new, physically excited you.
Your mind is always heading somewhere in particular, trying to find the shortest route. But your body would rather dance: let it.
Mike was a head hunter and a more driven man I have never met. He was a no non-sense guy who needed a bit of nonsense badly.
I couldn’t suggest that he dance, he was too stiff for such an assignment. Instead I asked him about his work––his favorite subject.
But I didn’t ask him the sorts of things he expected. I asked what it was like when he arrived at work. He drove to work and parked each day in the same parking space (of course). He then walked into the building, took the elevator to the fifth floor, got off and walked to his office.
I suggested that he back into his parking space, instead of pulling forward into it. He looked at me oddly; he was smart enough to know that he was in trouble.
I then suggested that he not walk directly to the building door but that he meander a little on the way there. That he weave in and out of cars, noticing the cars as he went and, “dancing” his way to the front door.
By dancing I meant anything but a direct route. A couple of days after Mike returned home, I received a call from his wife. “What did you do to him?” she asked.
Mike, being the diligent, driven guy he was, applied the assignment all over the place and was a lighter, more fun and even jubilant fellow. After 33 years of marriage, his wife had a new light and lively relationship. They both (of course) lived happily ever after.
Yes, Mike is a real person. Yes, he really did this, and yes, it changed his life. I have been leading courses for almost 30 years and have more stories about what works and what doesn’t work than could fit in a dozen books.
Notice Your Breath
Eastern spiritual pursuits have known for a long time that focusing attention on your breath tends to make you more present. That is exactly what it does. When you are talking to yourself in your own head, or out loud, you hold your breath. You don’t get enough air and you slowly suffocate.
If you are unhappy, or serious you are probably holding your breath. Focus your attention on the inhale, then on the exhale. Learn to love both and you will learn to love both the ups and downs of life. Focus attention on your breath anytime.
Lightening Up and Letting go
Just practicing these little things will allow you to lighten up and let go much more often. Pick one and practice it for a few days, then try another. After a few weeks you will be lighter, healthier and happier. After a few months you will be a whole new happy person and after a few years…
Bonus Lighten-up Secret: Commune with Mother Nature
Tell your concerns to a tree. Whine to a rock. Look at a mountain stream or at the surface of a lake. Notice the natural things around you and you will naturally resonate with them.
Mother Nature has a lot to teach us. She takes her time. There are no weeds in her world.
She offers us perspective as the mountain doesn’t care that you just put on a pound, spent too much on lunch or didn’t get that promotion.
She is never bothered.
I went through a very difficult time in my life a few years ago. People who know about such things called my crisis the dark night of the soul. It was dark.
At the time, I would have done anything to avoid it. Now I perceive it to be the greatest learning experience of my life. Isn’t it interesting how our perspective on things changes?
When I was in the dark night, a brilliant Chi Kung teacher came to my property. We hung out for a couple of days doing very, very simple exercises.
I live on 33 acres with lots of trees, meadows and a couple of ponds. During his two days here, we walked around the property investigating how sensitive we could be to our surroundings.
We wiggled our feet in the sand, we stood under large oak trees, felt the sun on our backs and experienced the difference between walking uphill and downhill. We explored our relationship with Mother Nature and she took care of us very well.
At one point on one of our walks, he let out a yelp. “Ouch,” he screamed. Fire ants had crawled on to his leg. He had never met these little pesky rascals before. I explained what they were to him. He closed his eyes, embraced the pain of their bites, converted it to pleasure.
I watched him move from pain to pleasure, simply by feeling what he felt, the ant bites became a gift.
Watching him do this was magical to me.
Rather than resisting the bites he welcomed them, as Mother Nature never resists anything.
Learn more by getting my free e-book here.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Editor: Travis May
Image: Stock Photo