Since breathing is something we can control and regulate, it is a powerful tool for achieving a relaxed and clear state of mind. Try the following exercises to reduce stress and create feelings of well-being
This breath is a natural tranquiliser for the nervous system. It sends a very powerful signal to the brain to slow down the release of adrenalin.
(Always breathe in through your nose, keep your shoulders down, and allow the out- breath to be longer than the in-breath.)
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Begin by exhaling fully. Then, breathing through your nose, direct the air down into your abdomen. You should feel the hand there gently rising. Exhale slowly (through your mouth if you wish), and allow your shoulders to release down towards your feet. Just continue in this manner, allowing your attention to rest fully on the breath. Allow the breath to be long and slow. Don’t strain but aim to fill your lungs fully – front, back and sides.
Practice for about five minutes or longer if you have the time. Do it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to bring yourself back to the present moment.
If you wish you may add a count to the breath e.g. breathe in to the count of 6, pause for 2 and breathe out for 8, pause for 2. That is one round. Continue for at least 10 rounds.
Using the full breath, think of a relaxing colour and imagine it pouring in through the top of your head like warm, soothing liquid, right down your whole body to your toes.
Allow your shoulders to sink down towards your feet.
As you breathe in feel this lovely colour in every cell of your body, softening and releasing.
As you breathe out imagine tension leaving your body in the form of grey smoke.
Use this Technique to Lift a Low Mood
Close your eyes and bring to mind a place where you felt really happy, peaceful and safe. This could be somewhere in your childhood, somewhere you visited on holiday or anywhere at all that engenders the above feelings. Allow your mind to be back there again feeling all those good feelings. Stay with it until you actually feel the sensations, if even a little.
Then remove the memory of the scene or situation and just feel the feeling. Find the place in your body where the feeling is centred, then let it expand until it fills you. If you’re very visual, it might help if you give the feeling a colour—a warm one, like gold or pink. Or you might work with the breath, breathing into the feeling and letting it expand on the exhalation.
Then press your index finger and thumb together while still enjoying the feelings.
Stay with these feelings. The finger gesture helps to anchor them in your body. Repeat a few more times. Then, any time you feel in a low mood, simply use the finger gesture and the good feelings will return.
A Simple Meditation
When starting to meditate it is best to do it for short periods i.e. five minutes. This can then be gradually extended. Twenty minutes is ideal but even a few minutes can be very beneficial. It not only helps restore feelings of calmness and ease but most importantly begins to loosen the hold “chattering mind” has on us.
Allow yourself to be comfortable. Sit with your back straight (yet not rigid) and close your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you without trying to identify them, or push them away. Then draw your attention inward. Follow the movement of the breath – the inhalation and exhalation. Notice the thoughts that are coming and going. Every time you notice yourself following a thought, as soon as you become aware that you are thinking, bring your attention back to your breath.
Then focus your awareness in the centre of your chest, beneath your breastbone. Feel the beating of your own heart and know that that rhythm is the rhythm of life. Just be with it, allowing the breath to flow naturally. You are not trying to change yourself (although that will happen). You’re simply being with yourself in this moment, just as you are.
This is a very powerful technique for restoring inner strength and calmness.
Standing, bring your attention down to the feet. Imagine pushing the floor away with your feet and really connect with the sensation. Take your time. Then imagine that there are roots growing out of the soles of your feet and into the earth. Imagine these roots growing deeper. Then imagine strong energy from the earth travelling up through those roots, into your feet, legs and right through your whole body. Feel the strength of this energy being absorbed into every cell and atom of your body. Breathe deeply taking a few moments to feel yourself standing tall, feeling strong, calm and centered.
Break the Worry Habit!
We all know that worry is an extremely self-destructive and energy draining habit. It is about being preoccupied with negative possibilities. The more you do it the bigger the worries become
ü Confront your fears – by facing whatever it is, you may find you know what to do. Ask yourself questions such as, “What could help this situation? What advice would I give to someone else with this issue? etc.
ü Talk it over – with a trusted friend or seek professional help. Be solution focused and be aware of your tendency to recycle problems.
ü Write it down – it is very helpful to put our worries on paper. This takes them from the nebulous mental area into the physical, where they can be evaluated more clearly. It is also a good idea to write down reasons why something might not happen.
ü Visualise – ask yourself the empowering question – “Who would I be without this worry?” Then take time to visualise yourself as a strong, capable person who can handle anything.
ü Take action – sometimes it is easier to dwell on a fear than do something about it but nothing empowers us more than taking action, even tiny ones.
ü Take exercise – it lifts mood due to increased production of brain chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine which all help us to gain valuable perspective.
ü Relaxation – use any of the techniques described above.
ü Set aside a worry time – imagine placing your worries in a box and setting aside a “worry time” each day when you will take them out. Take the phrase “I’ll worry about that later” literally.
ü Stay in the present – worries are all about fear of the future or regrets about the past. Notice how worries have nothing to do with what is in front of you right now. Bring yourself into this moment by connecting with your breath. Describe your physical environment to yourself i.e. there is a red file on my desk, a half-finished cup of coffee, etc. This is what is real here and now. Everything else is a thought. Can you allow yourself to trust that you do not have to cope with the future or past now, because they are simply mental concepts, but all the recourses to cope perfectly will be there when you need them, not before, not after?
Whatever is happening in our lives if we resist it we simply create more stress and suffering for ourselves. Acceptance does not mean that we don’t want it to change. Actually the very act of acceptance is the precursor to change. So for example, if you’re feeling anxious say to yourself “Even though there are feelings of anxiety in me right now, I deeply and completely accept myself and this anxiety”. Whatever you’re feeling or whatever is happening in your life, the simple act of acceptance will improve the situation
If we continually focus on what is wrong or missing in our lives we make ourselves miserable. What we focus on grows. Instead, why not cultivate the habit of appreciating all the good things we already have?
Start making lists of all the things you are grateful for in your life and keep adding to it. Think how happy you would be if you lost something important and then got it all back again!
Appreciate yourself! Instead of criticising yourself for all your perceived shortcomings, take time to acknowledge all that’s good about you and perhaps extend the appreciation to others as well!
The relationship we have with ourselves is what determines how we view the world and others. Having a critical and harsh attitude to ourselves is detrimental to personal growth and happiness. Instead cultivate an attitude of acceptance and compassion to yourself – “warts” and all. Do not reject yourself for your perceived faults and failing – we all have them! Instead view them with understanding.
When we can accept ourselves just as we are, something wonderful happens. We drop our judgements. We can become a true friend to ourselves and others. Life becomes immeasurably easier!