BREATHE! YOU ARE ALIVE
You have a gift, totally free, which can relieve stress, is anti-aging, enhances your immune system, and assists in regulating your emotions: BREATHING SLOWLY AND DEEPLY.
When you take control of your breath and begin to breathe more slowly and deeply, you can calm yourself and others around you. Long, slow, deep breathing, also called Belly Breathing by Dr. James Gordon, founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, is the simpliest stress relieving use of the breath. As you breathe in, imagine gently blowing up a balloon in your belly, expanding your belly button out. As you breathe out, gently pull your belly button back toward your spine and flatten your tummy. Another way to learn the technique is to lie down on your back, placing one hand on your chest and the other on your belly button. Practice breathing in, moving the hand on your belly button out (inhale) and back (exhale).Once you have the basic idea, be more relaxed and gentle, allowing the breath to come and go without tensing up, trying to 'do it right'. As you continue to practice slowing down your breath and calming yourself down (engaging your parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system for quiet states), you may use it throughout the day. Instead of becoming upset waiting in traffic or standing in line, use that time to "breathe in, breathe out" as Thich Nhat Hanh, a leading teacher of meditation and becoming peaceful, recommends in Peace is Every Step. By practicing with frequent, daily awareness of belly breathing to calm yourself, this tool is then ready when you are in a stressful situation, so you can stay calm even with deadlines, noise and angry people yelling at you. Talk about how to lower the costs of health care! Free and always available, practice throught the day, breathing more slowly.
Herbert Benson, M.D. of Harvard, who many years ago published The Relaxation Response, teaches long slow deep breathing or meditation to very poor people in a hospital in Boston. He asks them to inhale, exhale with long, slow deep breathing for twenty minutes daily. He reports that consistency in the relaxation response assists these patients to reduce high blood pressure and take less mediciine (with their doctors supervision) over several months of consistent practice. Often,when I recommend it, a person may say,' I tried it once and it didn't work', thus abandoning through impatience and low motivation to practice one of the most recommended interventions to reduce anxiety and relieve stress and insomnia. It is also free! Some say it takes two weeks, others say forty days to establish a new habit. Begin a few minutes a day, maybe at certain times, like before sleep, or at a break at work. Slowing your breath down becomes natural and calming.
Breathing for calming and staying healthy, both mentally and physically is also a key component in meditation. There are hundreds of ways to meditate, so if you learned one and became discouraged, you may want to try again, taking advantage of the long slow deep breathwork, described above. Some people use music or activity such as dance to meditate while in motion. Allowing yourself to relax and quiet your mind relieves anxiety and depression. In both, people may have trouble concentrating and be unable to turn off constant, rapid or racing thoughts. Refocusing your attention to simple sensory aspects, such as the way your breath sounds entering your nose, or the way your chest wall muscles stretch and relax as you gently slow your breath , allows 'changing your mental channel'. To further quiet your mind, you can replace the worried or depressed thoughts with phrases such as: "Breathing in, I am calm" or just: "Breathe In" on inhaling and "Breathe out" on exhaling. By putting soothing, repetitive words in your mind along with slowing your breath, you can change your mental state from anxiety or depression.
To learn more about alleviating anxiety, depression and stress by learning to meditate, watch free UTUBE videos of a renowned expert on Mindfulness Meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn.