2024 calls for more Willing hands + Half-smiling

Jan 10, 2024

Lucy Swank

We often think about what we might change when considering our New Years Resolutions. How can I improve? What can I work harder on? How can I further myself? What do I need to change about myself so that I can then accept myself?

While change is important, and while we can always “do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change,” per Marsha Linehan’s DBT assumptions, for some of us a far more underdeveloped skill set is that of acceptance.

If you have found yourself geared towards change-based resolutions in past years, I encourage you to bulk up on your acceptance-based practices in 2024.

Accepting what is out of our control, accepting what “is,” and accepting what we cannot change in this moment are valuable tools, that when practiced can improve our quality of life tremendously by reducing our suffering.

We can practice acceptance with our mind, body, and soul. To jump start your practice, I will offer two DBT reality acceptance skills that begin with the body.

Have you ever noticed that when you are fighting your reality, your body is tight, tense, and unrelaxed? You may feel like you are bracing yourself for some threat that may never come.

We can reduce our suffering by communicating to our mind that our body is safe through two simple exercises: Willing hands and half-smiling.

Willing hands is a practice that involves uncrossing our arms, unclenching our fists, and opening our palms. We can even face our palms up to the sky in a relaxed way. This posture is the opposite of a defensive, cross-armed, or clenched posture and communicates that we are receiving whatever may come. We resist resisting and open ourselves up to our reality. This skill can be adapted to sitting, standing, and seated postures. Prompting events for this skill might include feeling anxious on the subway, feeling angered at the dinner table, or when receiving a disturbing message from a friend.

The second skill is called Half-smiling. Similar in theme, this change in body involves first relaxing the muscles of the face and then slightly curving the corners of the lips upward into a “half smile.” This communicates to our brain that we are calm and relaxed. Prompting events for this skill might include when feeling frustrated completing a task for work, while holding a difficult yoga posture, or when you notice you are ruminating while walking down the street.

To watch Marsha Linehan herself teach Willing Hands check out her demonstration.