We live in anxious, chaotic times. Watch 10 minutes of any news channel or spend time on any social media app and notice your blood pressure rise. We pride ourselves on our abilities to multi-task. You?ve seen them (or this may be us), during rush hour, driving, talking/texting, putting on make-up (or dry shaving), and eating breakfast, all the while trying to navigate successfully to our destinations. Mindfulness is a call for us to slow down and focus on one thing, one event, one activity at a time…purposeful breathing is at the foundation.
?Breathing?? you may ask, ?Don?t we know how to breathe?? Clearly, it is automatic in the sense that we don?t even have to think about it. The medulla oblongata is the part of the hindbrain that detects levels of CO2 and O2 in the bloodstream and automatically determines if any changes are needed, sending nerve impulses to the heart and diaphragm to either increase or decrease activity. However, the breathing I am talking about in this blog is deliberate and intentional, to produce physiological calmness, emotional well-being, and mental clarity.
Dr. Weil offers us his 4-7-8 breathing rhythm, the ?relaxing breath.? On his YouTube video, he explains that breathing in this manner over time can produce wonderfully ?pleasant states of consciousness? and is one of the best ways to control anxiety and emotional reactivity (especially if you have been triggered in some manner).
To begin, hold your tongue in the Yogi position (behind front teeth, where teeth meet the gumline) exhale for a count of 8, inhale (through your nose) for the count of 4, hold this breath for a count of 7, and exhale completely for a count of 8. Do 3 more breath cycles to complete the circuit and notice any changes. Keeping the ratio is important, of note, the exhale is twice as long as the inhale and holding the breath for 7 facilitates a drop in blood pressure. Practice this throughout the day (bare minimum is twice a day), especially when you notice yourself getting upset, irritated, or otherwise emotionally reactive. Choosing to breathe in this rhythm instead of emotionally reacting allows a gap between irritant and reaction; thus, thoughtfully responding and in control of your words and actions (not emotionally reacting).
The applications for using this skill are numerous: someone cuts you off in traffic (breathe); your child speaks to you in a perceived disrespectful tone (breathe); you are in the check-out line at the store and there is no movement and your ice cream is melting (breathe); you are next in the queue to be interviewed (breathe); you are sitting down to take a test (breathe); you are getting ready to take a free-throw to win your basketball game (breathe); you get the idea. For as many anxious moments we face throughout the days, months, and years of our lives, use this breathing rhythm to calm your body and your mind and be deliberate in your words and actions. Relationships can flourish when we take the time and make the effort to regain emotional control once triggered. Practice Dr. Weil?s breathing rhythm at every opportunity…you will benefit greatly.
We all have bad days. It’s okay. But, it is essential to keep in mind that we all choose how much we allow our circumstances, at any given time, to influence our energy?positive or negative.
It?s okay to be human. We all make mistakes We all repeat the same slip-ups until we decide to choose another option?which often requires a paradigm shift. Changing one?s frame of mind is never easy. Change is hard!
Know what else is tough? Learning to walk and talk, but we did it?because we kept trying to learn. We were intentional about acquiring that skill because at that time, it was important to us.
At some point in adulthood, people get stuck in a cloud of shifting priorities. Work. School. Family. Church. Social engagements. We all?at one time or another?feel drained! The question is, what are we going to do about it?
For a change to happen, one must intentionally create new habits. These behaviors are meant to replace the old ways that were not contributing to our success. These new habits should be designed to impact areas in our lives that we need strengthened. Nothing changes, when nothing changes.
Marty was just like you?busy, overworked, stressed. She?s a single-parent who works very hard to provide for her two boys.
One day, Marty decided that she was going to do something about her energy. She had been reading a book by Brendon Burchard, High Performing Habits, that inspired her to generate more positive energy by intentionally adopting simple habits that would allow her to do so.
On a Tuesday morning, Marty set 2 random alarms?one at 10:17 am , another at 2:29 pm?that prompted her to stop what she was doing and take 10 deep breaths. She was intrigued by how effortless and odd, yet apparently obvious this exercise seemed, because Marty had known for quite some time that she wasn?t taking breaks throughout her day to just breathe?and as a nurse she knew how vital breathing is to one?s well-being.
Her first alarm goes off. She gets up from the nurse?s station, walks outside, and starts to count 10 deep breaths. Once she has started breathing she is supposed to ask herself, ?what kind of energy do I want and need right now?? She thinks about her to-do list, the patients she is caring for, and then she feels gratitude.
?I am grateful that I have all of these things to do and that I am entrusted with these people to care for. I choose to BRING THE JOY!?
This heartwarming moment was a gamechanger for Marty. A few hours later, when her next alarm went off, she once again walked outside to get a breath of fresh air. She started to breathe and as she did she felt the tension release from off of her shoulders. She was in the moment. She had already ?brought the joy once.? She thought about what kind of energy she needed at that moment, then, like magic, she had laser-like focus as she intentionally dialed into her mind to generate the energy she wanted. She caught up her charting and made her rounds again?with the intention of bringing more joy!
Six months later, Marty still has her 2 alarms that go off, and she has found that she takes more time to be present, in the present. She is able to stay focused at work. She?s incorporated a 3rd alarm. This one goes off on her drive home. She breathes, releases the tension, and asks herself what kind of energy her family needs. These triggers, changed her behavior in a way that impacted her state of mind, her work, & family relationships. Marty took control of her energy production.
Another key aspect of generating energy is taking control of our health?optimize it. If it has been over a year since the last physical exam, ?we really should get one soon. We all have to start somewhere, and this is a good place. Finding out where to improve our health and our body, and then intentionally improving those areas will bless us with health, strength, and vitality.
Exercise plays a HUGE role in one?s ability to generate energy. A good place to start is in the morning. Wake up 10-15 minutes earlier, stretch, and do 5 push-ups. Do this Monday through Friday for a month. Get excited about waking up earlier to do this?after all, by doing this, you are changing the world (your world). Increase your exercise to, eventually, consistently exercising for at least 30 minutes a morning, 4-5x a week.
Robin Sharma said, ?Good health is a crown on the head of a well person that only a sick person can see.?
As we choose to do simple, different things like setting random alarms to breathe, breathing to intentionally set the tone, and optimizing our health, our bodies will reap from the choices we have sown. We will grow in health, mental clarity, and our ability to generate energy will have increased by leaps and bounds.
There are no shortcuts. Choices can and should be tough. Growth is never easy. Change is always possible. Change comes when we choose between comfort and wisdom?and choose to grow. It comes when we ask ourselves, ?What is TRULY best for me right now?? Then acting upon that answer.
Do you want the secret to life? Act. Do. Become.
Act on your choices, choose your reactions, and intentionally generate the energy and the feelings that are most important to you and will help you become the best version of yourself.
If you struggle with learning new habits, if you need help from a mentor to coach you as you strive to become all that you have the potential to become, or if you are ready to take it to the next level?career, relationship, personal life?then I can help you.