- A calm mind
- Good concentration
- Better clarity
- Optimal blood pressure
- Lower levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks
- Decreases any tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
- Increases energy levels, while gaining an inner source of energy
- Emotional stability improves
- Increased Creativity
Whether you’re stressed, in an argument, at the gym or in a peaceful yoga class, this is probably one of the most common pieces of advice now-a-days.
And which part of the deep breath feels better?
It may seem like the inhale, but for your body, it’s actually the exhale. This is because, when you exhale, you release all the tension and stress.
So why does it seem like most people focus or emphasize on the inhale? Well, that’s simply because most of us don’t exhale completely and this causes the body to crave that next inhale. By holding your breath, breathing shallowly, or not exhaling all the way, you are actually retaining CO2, which is a known stressor on the nervous system. The only thing the body knows to do after that is force the inhale.
Ideally, we should all be breathing using, what Betsy Polatin, a Movement and Breathing Specialist calls, the “optimal” breath. “Optimal breath means you do not suck air in to “take” a breath or “push” air out to expel a breath. You allow air to flow in and out, so the lungs easily exhale carbon dioxide and effortlessly fill with oxygen. As your whole system slightly expands and contracts, your nervous system has the potential to settle and reduce stress, says Polatin.
So, the next time you find yourself stressed, angry, or breathing shallowly, don’t force the inhale. As Polatin recommends, “Try putting your hands on the sides of your ribs and gently pushing your ribs down and in a tiny bit as you exhale and then let them spring open for your inhale. Be sure not to collapse your whole torso as you exhale, and instead, lengthen your spine. Let your breath find its own rhythm.”
Are you tired of the constant chatter in your mind? Is it bringing you down or keeping you distracted? What is it and where is it coming from?
Many people, including Zen Buddhists, refer to this constant chatter as our Monkey Mind. And it’s coming from your past and future and doing all it can to keep you not present.
- Your mind reading off a laundry list of to-do items.
- Your mind listing its fears, both real and imaginary.
- Your mind recalling hurtful things that have happened in the past.
- Your mind judging the present.
- Your mind creating catastrophic “what-if” scenarios of the future.
- It will give you clarity of mind.
- It will allow you to focus on the present and on the task at hand.
- It will improve the quality of your sleep.
- It will increase your sense of calm and of well-being.
- It will make you happier.
So how can we tame it? Well, the first step to calming down all the chatter is simply knowing that it’s possible to do so and remembering that your thoughts don’t rule you. You rule your thoughts. Other ways to tame this wild monkey in your head is to:
1. Talk to it!
Ask it what it’s trying to communicate to you and why? Or be an observer of all that chatter. Sometimes your monkey mind just needs to be heard and once you allow it to run its course and/or observe it, it tends to calm down.
Create a regular journaling practice and write down all that your mind is chattering about. Sometimes getting things out and on paper is healing and forgiving.
3. Meditate and Deep Belly Breathe
Sitting in silence and focusing on your breathing is one of the most effective ways to calm the mind. Inhale slowly and expand your belly. Exhale slowly and release all tension. Our breath is our greatest gift. I encourage you to take some time every day to acknowledge and honor it.
4. Stop Assigning Meaning
Have you ever considered that your thoughts might not mean anything? In other words, we give meaning to things based on our past experience.
5. Recite a Mantra Repeat a positive phrase or quote that brings you peace.
6. Play the Game of Fives
Once you notice your mind is creating chaos, pause for a moment and come back to the present by noticing 5 things in your environment using any of your 5 senses. Hear them, smell them, touch them, look at them or if you’re having a meal, take a little bit longer to chew and fully experience all the flavors in your meal.
Stress is almost inevitable now-a-days. We all encounter it at some level and almost on a daily basis. So what can we do to deal with stress so that it doesn’t effect our health or relationships? There are many ways to find the balance in life. Here I’ll name a few and I invite you to give them a try and find the one that really works for you.
When you meditate, you clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress.
The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Guided Meditation
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Mantra Meditation
- Transcendental Meditation
- Qi gong
- Tai Chi
As we learned last week, the body secretes an assortment of hormones, such as cortisol, into the bloodstream as a reaction to stress. Studies have shown that acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of these hormones and the pathways that cause “fight or flight”.
Balanced Nutritional Diet
Stress and a poor diet can cause an imbalance of blood sugars resulting in tiredness, lack of concentration, and mood swings. An over excess of caffeine negatively effects your hormones and can result in restlessness, lapses of concentration and a decrease in your ability to be fully effective. Also, under stress, vital nutrients are used up more quickly, the body’s natural defences can be severely affected and leave the person with a weaker immune system. This leaves the person more prone to contracting illnesses. A well balanced nutrition will boost our resistance against the effects that stress brings upon the body.
Other common ways to deal with stress are:
- quality sleep
- a walk in nature
- spiritual studies/practices