Recent reading and research has reminded me afresh how important regulating our breathing pattern impacts our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
It’s incredibly simple – by slowing down our breathing to about 6 cycles (/in & out breaths) per minute we tell our brain that it is safe and we enter our calm and thrive system. Indeed, taking just 3 slow, deep breaths, lengthening our our breath, we immediately feel different.
To breathe in this way we need to use our belly. If you sit with your hands across your tummy, fingers tips just touching, as you breathe in right to the bottom of your lungs and your diaphragm moves, your fingers tips will gently part on your in breath.
When we are stressed, fearful, anxious – our breathing is very different. It is shallow and fast, preparing us to take flight, fight or to freeze, engaging the sympathetic nervous system. This has immediate effects on various parts of our body.
I don’t know about you but our modern age can burden us with the feeling that we must always be busy, doing, achieving. What has happened to simply being – still…….., present, noticing the moment and the world around us.
To start doing this we can begin with resting our attention on our breath, slowing it down, at the same time relaxing and softening our shoulders, jaw and hands.
Yesterday I was in a long queue at a large store. I noticed that with each customer infront of me the assistant on the till had to call for help from the supervisor. She would then put on her glasses and peer at the till receipt for a few minutes.
In the past I would have got my mobile phone out and checked my emails, looked at Facebook, sent a few texts – in an attempt not to ‘waste’ this enforced pause to my plans.
Instead, I put my phone away and just breathed and took in the space. Instead of getting annoyed at the queue and wait as customers in other lines got to their till before me I just noticed the world around me. I saw a mother with a young child who had Down’s syndrome. He was getting fed up and I was so pleased that their line of customers moved more quickly than mine.
I arrived at the till feeling surprisingly calm! I smiled at the assistant, who smiled back and she apologised for the wait, explaining that it was only her second day on the tills. I replied that we all have to learn. After paying for my goods she headed off for her break and I noticed that she had a marked limp. I was impressed that despite probable pain and restrictions this lady was working in a job that was mainly standing and moving goods.
Do I always remember to breathe in this way? No, not at all. But I know that I need to be in the moment more often otherwise I am going to miss so many simple special, precious blessings that are mine for the taking.
Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, young or older, working or at home – I would encourage you to try pausing, noticing the world around you as you breathe slowly and deeply for just a minute or two. You will immediately feel the benefits.
One method is known as the box 4 by 4; breathe in to the count of 4, hold your breath to the count of 4, breathe out slowly to the count of 4 (or more), pause for 4, repeat. I find this too difficult and prefer the simplicity of a slow deep breath in, and a longer, slow breath out. I challenge you – have a go and try!