Can you slow down?
Are you too busy to just slow down for a few minutes during your day? Do you find yourself feeling ‘stressed to the max’ most days? Well, this time of year is an easy time to feel overwhelmed without a clear focus of your priorities and principal objectives.
Personally, I easily get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, cookie baking, parties, wrapping, etc. In addition, my to-do lists never appear to get any smaller, but rather keep growing like weeds in my garden. Therefore, the question is – how do we survive all this holiday madness and stay sane in the process?
Meditate to calm the mind
Let me ask you this – have you ever considered meditation? Well, despite what many believe, practicing meditation doesn’t require you to go on a retreat with like-minded people and perform Buddhist sacred rituals. Nor, does it have to be a time of total isolation and include some form of mantras or chanting. In addition, it doesn’t require you to be in a serene environment complete with Buddha statues and bamboo trees. However, it is about taking some time for personal reflection and calming your mind.
When you meditate, you can, in a sense, hit your ‘off’ button for a few minutes. It’s as if you are giving yourself a reset option to regroup and prioritize your thoughts. Not to mention, your time of meditation is strictly about you and your needs rather than doing everything for everyone else.
Types of breathing
Now do you believe that meditation can help with more than just your sanity? In other words, does practicing meditation regularly help you live a healthier life in general? Well, first off, do you know the difference between chest breathing and abdominal breathing?
Simply put, chest breathing (the most common) is considered shallow breathing and ineffective at slowing down the heart. In contrast, abdominal breathing is a much deeper form of breathing and is done at a slower pace, but requires more thought to achieve.
For example, when you are reacting to a stressful situation, your sympathetic nervous system turns on its fight or flight response and thus, floods you with the necessary energy to respond accordingly. In turn, your breathing rate goes up and causes you to breathe superficially and quickly. As a result, you may feel like you can’t catch your breath and as if you’re having an anxiety attack. “At the same time, your body produces a surge of hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) which increase your blood pressure and pulse rate and put you in a state of high alert.”
In contrast, abdominal (deep) breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which changes how your body reacts to incoming stress. When this stimulation happens, the essential nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve, brings your heart rate and blood pressure back down while pacifying your mental and physical state. In addition, when abdominal breathing, you utilize differing muscles (abdominal and diaphragm) as opposed to chest breathing (neck and upper chest). Therefore, this equates to “improved efficiency of oxygen exchange with every breath by allowing more air exchange to occur in the lower lungs” and thus, “allowing higher volumes of oxygen to reach the body’s cells and tissues.”
Meditation and serotonin
Simply put, utilizing meditation on a regular basis changes the way we react to stress and boosts our formulation of a neurotransmitter known as serotonin which is responsible for our state of mind, ability to sleep well, and hunger for food. Not to mention, learning how to correctly breathe with meditation “can have an immediate effect on diffusing emotional energy so there is less reactivity to our emotions.”
So there you have an explanation on deep breathing with meditation. I realize that it’s not that easy to slow down when you have a million things to accomplish. However, maybe if you took those few minutes for yourself to meditate, you would gain the necessary focus to be much more effective. Not to mention, if your cells and tissues are receiving plenty of oxygen, you may find yourself with an abundance of energy! Sounds like a win-win situation to me! Here’s to living your best life ever! Feel free to leave me a comment or any insight you may have on the topic of deep breathing and meditation.
Patel, M.D., S. (2017). Breathing for Life: The Mind-Body Healing Benefits of Pranayama. [online] Chopra.com. Available at: https://chopra.com/articles/breathing-for-life-the-mind-body-healing-benefits-of-pranayama# [Accessed 13 Dec. 2017].