Distress Tolerance Handout #3
Guidelines for Accepting Reality: Half-Smiling Exercises
Accept reality with your body. Relax (by letting go or by just tensing and then letting go) your face, neck, and shoulder muscles and half-smile with your lips. A tense smile is a grin (and might tell the brain you are hiding or masking). A half-smile is slightly upturned lips with a relaxed face. Try to adopt a serene facial expression. Remember, your body communicates to your mind.
HALF-SMILE WHEN YOU FIRST AWAKE IN THE MORNING
Hang a branch, any other sign, or even the word "smile" on the ceiling or wall so that you see it right away when you open your eyes. This sign will serve as a reminder. Use the seconds before you get out of bed to take hold of your breath. Inhale and exhale three breaths gently while maintaining a half-smile. Follow your breaths.
HALF-SMILE DURING YOUR FREE MOMENTS
Anywhere you find yourself sitting or standing, half smile. Look at a child, a leaf, a painting on a wall, or anything that is relatively still, and smile. Inhale and exhale quietly three times.
HALF-SMILE WHILE LISTENING TO MUSIC
Listen to a piece of music for 2 or 3 minutes. Pay attention to the words, music, rhythm and sentiments of the music you are listening to (not your daydreams of other times). Half smile while watching your inhalations and exhalations.
HALF-SMILE WHEN IRRITATED
When you realize "I'm irritated," half smile at once. Inhale and exhale quietly, maintaining a half-smile for three breaths.
HALF-SMILE IN A LYING-DOWN POSITION
Lie on your back on a flat surface without the support of a mattress or pillow. Keep your two arms loosely by your sides and keep your two legs slightly apart, stretched out before you. Maintain a half-smile. Breathe in and out gently, keeping your attention focused on your breath. Let go of every muscle in your body. Relax each muscle as though it were sinking down through the floor, or as though it were as soft and yielding as a piece of silk hanging in the breeze to dry. Let go entirely, keeping your attention only on your breath and half-smile. Think of yourself as a cat, completely relaxed before a warm fire, whose muscles yield without resistance to anyone's touch. Continue for 15 breaths.
HALF-SMILE IN A SITTING POSITION
Sit on the floor with your back straight, or on a chair with your two feet touching the floor. Half-smile. Inhale and exhale while maintaining the half-smile. Let go.
HALF-SMILE WHILE CONTEMPLATING THE PERSON YOU HATE OR DESPISE THE MOST
Sit quietly. Breathe and smile a half-smile. Imagine the image of the person who has caused you the most suffering. Regard the features you hate or despise the most or find the most repulsive. Try to examine what makes this person happy and what causes suffering in his or her daily life. Imagine the person's perceptions; try to see what patterns of thought and reason this person follows. Examine what motivates this person's hopes and actions. Finally, consider the person's consciousness. See whether the person's views and insights are open and free or not, and whether or not the person has been influenced by any prejudices, narrow-mindedness, hatred, or anger. See whether or not the person is master of himself or herself. Continue until you feel compassion rise in your heart like a well filling with fresh water, and your anger and resentment disappear. Practice this exercise many times on the same person.