Here we are in the last month of summer and Fall is looming ever more closely. Here in Austin it remains in the 100’s and will stay quite warm through most of September. Summer for many often means taking time off for rest, recreation and travel, but there is a frenetic quality to this warmest season of the year that leaves a lot of people “burnt out” and over stimulated.
Being able to relax your body at will is a life skill that adds not only to in the moment joy, richness and satisfaction, but also to overall health, well being and longevity. What if there was a tool that you had at your disposal every single moment to inhabit a calmer place even in the midst of stress and life challenges?
Rick Hanson Ph.D. author of Buddha’s Brain (which is an excellent book by the way!) gives some ways in which to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – rest and digest – that calms down the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system in his book Just One Thing(27-28). Three out of five tips listed are all about the breath!
*”Do several long exhalations, since the PNS handles exhaling. For example, inhale for a count of 3, and exhale for a count of 6.”
*”For a minute or more, breathe in such a way that your inhalation and exhalation are equally long; count mentally up to 5 for each inhalation and each exhalation. This creates small but smooth changes in the interval between heartbeats – since the heart speeds up slightly with inhalation and slows down slowly with exhalation which is associated with relaxation and well being. (Kristal-Boneh, et al 1995)”
*”Relax your diaphragm – the muscle underneath your lungs that helps suck air into them – by putting your hand on your stomach, just below your ribcage, and then trying to breathe in a way that pushes your hand half an inch or so away from your backbone. (This is especially helpful if you are feeling anxious).”
As you attempt to fit in a few more summer activities and find them more stressful than enjoyable remember that your exhale will stimulate the rest and relaxation response in your body and mind. It doesn’t take long to simply take a few conscious breaths with an intention of lengthening the exhale and relaxing the diaphragm.
You might be surprised at how easy it is to simply exhale and relax….
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