There’s no doubt we are living in stressful times. Stress floods our bodies with hormones and responses needed to address physical danger, not the chronic mental and emotional stress of the modern world. According to an article in Harvard Health, frequent and prolonged stress can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, as well as mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Other side effects reported are digestion problems and gastro-intestinal diseases, insomnia, decreased immune system, headaches, reduced sex drive, and low energy.
In times of stress, connecting to the breath is the quickest way to step out of the fight-or-flight response and find peace. Breathing is immensely powerful and can be done by anyone, anywhere—no prescription needed, no therapist needed, just the breath. Using specific breathing strategies that require focus and attention help us to step out of negative thought patterns and sink into the breath. Try these three easy breathing techniques to find quiet and calm in the midst of chaos and stress.
To practice 4-7-8 Breathing, inhale for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, exhale for eight seconds, and repeat. Counting gives the mind an anchor to focus on, which helps to eliminate distracting thoughts. Dr. Andrew Weil of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrated Medicine describes 4-7-8 Breathing as a “natural tranquilizer.” On a patient flier detailing this strategy, Weil also points out that prescription tranquilizers lose their effect over time as a patient’s body builds a tolerance to the drugs. The opposite is true for this breathing technique. Dr. Weil states that the more a patient uses 4-7-8 Breathing, the stronger the effect. This breathing technique is easy, grounding, and builds in strength and effectiveness the more it is practiced.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate Nostril Breathing, or nadi shodhana pranayama, is a yoga breathing technique that can promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, and improve heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Switching from one nostril to the other requires your full attention and focus, which allows you to take a break from mental and emotional stress. To practice this strategy, use your right thumb to close your right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers to close your left. Inhale and exhale completely. Now plug the right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril. Close the left nostril and hold for a second. Release the breath out the right nostril. Then inhale through the right, hold, and exhale through the left. Go back and forth, alternating nostrils for about 10 minutes or until your breathing slows.
Dr. Herbert Benson, who wrote The Relaxation Response to counteract the negative effects of fight-or-flight, recommends choosing a word or mantra to focus on as you sit still and belly breathe, or allow the abdomen to rise and fall rather than just the chest. Connect your word or words to the breath, repeating on the inhale and exhale, or break it up over the two. For example, “Inhale Peace. Exhale Fear.” Create your own mantra, that grounds and inspires you. Focusing on a word or phrase connected to inhales and exhales will clear away the clutter in your mind and make space for focus, quiet, and calm.
The world could use a lot more peace and a lot less stress and fear. Inner peace is the first step to outer peace. Change starts with you. Breathe in. Breathe out. Try one or all of these breathing strategies and begin cultivating your inner peace today!
© 2020 Silver Disobedience Inc.