Stress is everywhere. Demanding work schedules, financial problems, aging parents, teenage children and struggling relationships, and with this new motto America has adopted in the last couple years, “doing more with less” that stress isn’t going to be going away. Stress can affect all aspects of your life, headaches, anxiety, loss of appetite, overindulgence, irritability, depression, lack of motivation and muscle tension are all symptoms. If not properly managed stress can even cause more serious health problems such as heart disease. It is amusing to think one simple step in our daily lives something we as humans do 12-18 times a minute could be the answer. Mindful breathing.
Your day isn’t going as planned, after spilling your coffee on yourself which then made you late to work and led to your sales meeting to be rescheduled and ended with a not so pleasant conversation with your boss. You’re so irritated you are seeing red. You then call your significant other or trusted companion to “vent” and what is the first thing that comes out of their mouth? Okay, deep breath and calm down. Everybody says it but I am not sure they understand the mechanics of why deep breaths help calm a person. Deep abdominal breathing oxygenates the brain releasing endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural antidepressants, some stronger than morphine and are very effective in calming the nervous system. Most people take shallow chest breaths which hinder relaxation and cause neck and shoulder tension which can lead to headaches and a whole slew of other physical and mental ailments. There are many ways to apply conscious breathing into your daily life, though some techniques will take practice the health benefits are incredibly life changing.
One technique is meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist Monk said “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” One does not need to become a Monk to experience conscious breathing and one does not need to be a Buddhist to learn meditation. What is meditation? Meditation is a practice of concentrated focus. There are many forms of meditation, Transcendental Meditation requires the use of the mantra (a repeated word or phrase) to focus the mind and achieve a deep state of relaxation. The most well-known type of meditation, mindfulness meditation, is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening around you and letting your mind flow freely from one thought to the next without focusing on a particular thing. Each type of meditation requires the same basic functions; you’ll need to find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, somewhere the dogs, children, and life will not interfere, you can also lie down but it may be too tempting to fall asleep. Then you focus on breathing. Take big deep cleansing breaths, inhaling in the new positive energy and exhale, completely releasing all your tension and worries. Your mind will want to wander but try to stay aware of your breathing, aware of the rise and fall of your abdomen, clear your mind.
Meditation might sound easy as you are reading the steps yet in reality that state of deep relaxation is extremely hard to obtain and maintain for a decent amount of time. If you are new to meditation I suggest setting aside at least 20 minutes a day to train your brain and your breathing to achieve the desired health benefits. If you find it too hard to achieve by yourself there are many guided meditations you can find on the internet, Deepak Chopra, a New Age guru, and alternative medicine practitioner runs a free 21 day meditation challenge multiple times a year, you can find details on his website www.deepakchopra.com. If you are the type that needs face to face interaction look up a local Hypnotherapist, hypnotherapy isn’t what you see on T.V. or at the local county fair where the Hypnotherapist takes control of your brain and makes you do the Hokey Pokey. A true Hypnotherapist guides you into deep relaxation by teaching you proper breathing techniques. If you are the type of person where sitting for 5 minutes is almost impossible try movement meditation, Yoga and Tai Chi fall into this category.
Meditation might not be for everyone it is simply one form of training yourself to breathe properly. It doesn’t get more primal than breathing and yet somehow in our hectic culture we have forgotten how to do it. The stresses in our lives are going to continue to interfere daily so do yourself a favor save some heartache, money spent on doctors’ bills and just breathe.