Deep Breathing

Deep Breathing: A Complete Guide to the Relaxation Technique

By Becky Upham

Medically Reviewed by Justin Laube, MD

Taken on 03.16.222 from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/deep-breathing/

If you’re reading this, you’re breathing. What’s interesting about breathing is we do it regardless of whether we’re thinking about it — that is, this essential bodily function is subconscious or involuntary, according to the book Human Biology published by Thompson Rivers University. Yet we can also voluntarily control our breathing when we are conscious of our breathing patterns. For example, we can choose to control our breath by slowing it down or speeding it up, or by taking shallow or deep breaths.

How we breathe affects our health. By breathing more deeply or controlling our breath intentionally, we can impact our body in a number of positive ways, says Baxter Bell, MD, a former family doctor who now works as a certified yoga instructor and practices medical acupuncture. “For starters, we can lower our blood pressure and stress level, and think more clearly,” he says. Feeling calm and centered after deep breathing is common, and a breathing practice can promote a greater sense of well-being, he says.

If you’re interested in how deep-breathing works and how it can be beneficial, keep reading to find out more about this valuable health tool that requires no special equipment and can be accessed at any moment of your day.

What Is the Function of Breathing?

There are two phases of breathing: inhaling (taking breath in) and exhaling (breathing out). When you inhale, the diaphragm — which is the big, dome-shaped muscle located between your lungs and your heart — contracts and moves downward. This creates extra space in the chest cavity, and the lungs expand into it. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes as the amount of air in the lungs is reduced.

Breathing is essential to life because our bodies require oxygen to function; moving your muscles, digesting food, and even reading these words are all body processes that require oxygen. Breathing also helps the body get rid of carbon dioxide, which is created as a waste product of these processes.

What Is Deep Breathing?

Controlling the breath can be part of a yoga or mindfulness practice, but breath-focused meditation doesn’t have to be deep breathing, says Dr. Riehl. “Some yoga breathing can be similar to diaphragmatic breathing, but it can sometimes be very different. For example, [for] some breathing patterns in yoga, you are supposed to keep your mouth closed,” she says. In diaphragmatic breathing or deep breathing, you typically are encouraged breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, she says.

“Breath-focused meditation can be an entry point of bringing you to a mindful place, accepting the present moment for what it is. Your breath is the one true thing that is present in the moment — you can’t breathe ahead, and you can’t breathe backwards,” says Riehl.

“In meditation or guided relaxation, oftentimes the practice will begin with an awareness of your breath as you breathe in and out, but you might not practice deep breathing or change anything about your breath pattern,” she says.  

“It might just be an invitation to pay attention to or notice: Are you breathing quickly or slowly? Is it shallow or deep? That aspect of mindfulness or starting a meditation is a little bit different from intentionally practicing diaphragmatic breathing,” says Riehl.

 Downsides of Shallow Breathing

“Stress can shift our breathing,” says Riehl. “We can become shallow breathers in the face of stress or tension.”

This usually has to do with our body’s sympathetic arousal, which can be activated in times of stress, she says. This is also known as the “fight or flight response,” and the release of hormones can drive up our breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure, says Riehl. This response prepares the body to survive a real or perceived threat, so whether there’s a car swerving at you or you’re going to talk to your boss about a raise, the body’s sympathetic system responds similarly, as an article published in July 2021 in StatPearls notes.

Shallow breathing can lead to physical tension in different parts of your body, including your shoulders, jaw, hands, or back, she says. “That tension also is associated with increased GI distress. Overall, it can have a snowball effect — stress might trigger more shallow breathing, and then the physical effects can lead to more stress,” she says.

 Abdominal vs. Chest Breathing

We’re all born as deep breathers, says Riehl. “Think about a sleeping infant. Their little bellies rise and fall slowly and peacefully — you can see that really clearly,” she says.

When we move out of infancy and begin to move and run around more, we shift from being belly breathers or deeper breathers to breathing from our chest more, says Riehl.

Chest breathing still gets the job done of moving the air through our lungs, but the breath tends to be shorter and more shallow, says Dr. Lin. “For most of us, when we’re engaged in our everyday breathing, we’re just breathing using the upper half or top third of our lungs. When you take a deep breath in, your chest is rising, but for most people, your abdomen is not moving at all,” she says.

Abdominal breathing starts in the nose and moves to the stomach as the diaphragm contracts, causing the belly to expand and the lungs to fill with air.

 Compared with chest breathing, abdominal breathing not only brings in more oxygen, but it’s also more efficient, because it pulls down on the lungs. The negative pressure that’s created results in more air flowing into the lungs.

Potential Health Benefits of Deep Breathing

A key benefit of deep breathing is that it can help manage stress, which is a contributor to many health conditions, says Bell. While research results on deep breathing vary, experts agree deep breathing is safe for most people to try.

Whether done alone, as a meditation, or in combination with a movement practice like yoga, this complementary approach may be worth trying if you are dealing with a health condition. For instance, deep breathing may help you manage or improve:

  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) Improves air circulation and quality of life with COPD and helps with hyperventilation, lung function, and quality of life in mild to moderate asthma
  • Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, which can cause dysphagia and breathing issues at advanced stages and migraine [headaches]
  • High blood sugar levels and oxidative stress, which contribute to disease progression, in type 2 diabetes
  • Recovery from COVID-19 because it can help boost lung capacity, improve diaphragm function, and lessen stress levels associated with the novel coronavirus

Riehl has witnessed the benefits of deep breathing among her patients with GI conditions, which include IBS and UC. The way the diaphragm moves in deep breathing can allow for a reduction in tension in the digestive tracts, she says. “This can aid digestion and help with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) symptoms, constipation, and diarrhea,” says Riehl.  

In terms of emotional wellness, the ability to employ deep breathing when you find yourself overwhelmed or overstressed can be very helpful in the way we feel and think. “The more stressed we become, the harder it can be for us to think clearly,” she says.

Though their origins are complex, mental health disorders are associated with high stress levels.

Often people who are facing chronic stress, which has gotten even more common since the pandemic, have their normal breath rhythm disrupted, explains Bell. “That imbalance could contribute to anxiety, insomnia, or any number of unwanted effects. By doing mindful breath exercises, they can start to rebalance their breath system,” he says.

Are There Any Health Risks Associated With Deep Breathing?

In the scheme of interventions, deep breathing is very low risk, says Riehl. “Sometimes people will say when they are learning diaphragmatic breathing that they can feel a little light-headed. That’s because they are putting more oxygen in their body than they are typically used to,” she says, and levels of carbon dioxide are lowered, notes MedlinePlus. It might make you feel different from how you typically feel when you breathe, but it’s not dangerous in any capacity, she adds. If you have any concerns or discomfort such as pain or excessive light-headedness when starting a deep breathing technique, consult your healthcare team.

How to Start Practicing Deep Breathing

You might plan to set aside time each day to practice deep breathing, or you can choose to do it whenever you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed, says Riehl. Because deep breathing can be a natural sleep aid, doing it before bedtime can also be helpful.

“In those stressful times, you might even catch yourself holding your breath or gasping a little bit. If you can shift that through deep breathing or another relaxation technique, you can have a little bit more control of activating what’s called our parasympathetic system, or our body’s relaxation response. By doing that, we can bring things back to baseline,” she says.

A Simple Deep-Breathing Exercise for Beginners

Riehl regularly works with deep-breathing newbies, and she suggests the following exercise to get started.

Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Breathe normally; you’ll probably notice how the top hand is moving more than the bottom hand. Riehl says your goal is to shift that so that the top hand remains steady and the bottom hand begins to move as the belly rises and falls.

Allow your belly to be soft as you take a deep breath in through your nose. Counting to yourself can be helpful to get into a rhythm; breathe in through your nose to about a count of 4, she says. As you breathe in, the belly is going to rise very slowly and then as you exhale, the belly will fall. “Try to make your exhale last a second or two longer than your inhale,” says Riehl. “Practice that for 6 to 10 breaths; you don’t need to do this for 20 minutes if you’re new to deep breathing.”

Once you get comfortable with it, you can let go of counting if you want to, she says. “Just notice it takes a couple seconds to breathe in and for that belly to rise, and then a couple seconds to breathe out and for the belly to fall, aiming to have your exhale last just a little bit longer than your inhale.”

Slowing down and controlling breath during a difficult situation — whether you’re feeling anxious, have a flare-up of lower back pain, or something else — can make a real difference, says Bell. “It can give a sense of control in situations where we often feel out of control. It’s empowering to have something you can immediately put into action,” he says.

The Nature Fix: The Three-Day Effect

Thank you to REI and Florence Williams for this wonderful read. Science is backing up what we already know about the healing power of nature. 

THE NATURE FIX: THE THREE-DAY EFFECT

written by: Florence Williams

Ken Sanders is a seller of rare books in Salt Lake City. Before that, he used to guide rafting trips down the Green and Colorado rivers for commercial clients and for his pals, like Edward Abbey. Starting on the third day, he’d notice the vibe of the whole group change.

“An awareness sets in that the river is now your new reality,” says Sanders, who’s been running rivers for 40 years. “The ritual of unloading the boats, setting up your campsite, gathering around the fire, sharing meals, etc. is now your day-to-day existence. It’s a bonding experience. Your old reality fades away.”

Sanders shared his observation with cognitive neuroscientist David Strayer, who teaches and conducts research at the University of Utah. It immediately struck a chord with Strayer, an avid backpacker who noticed that some of his best ideas emerged after three days of camping out.

“Having hiked around the desert for years, I noticed in myself, and from talking to others, that people think differently after being out in the desert. Their thoughts are clearer, they’re certainly more relaxed, they report being more creative,” says Strayer. “If you can disconnect and experience being in the moment for two or three days, it seems to produce a difference in qualitative thinking.”

Strayer wanted to find ways to test what he started calling “the three-day effect,” a kind of neural reboot that might boost creativity. “I wanted to try to understand what was going on inside the brain,” he says.

So, for a study published in 2012, Strayer and his colleagues Paul and Ruth Ann Atchley from the University of Kansas administered tests to 28 backpackers before and after going on Outward Bound trips. Immediately after a trip, the participants performed 47 percent better in a word-test game that measures creative thinking and insight problem-solving. The game is called the Remote Associates Test, or RAT. It poses a series of three words; for example, tug, gravy and show. The test taker has to come up with the fourth word that fits with all three; in this case, boat.

“A near 50 percent improvement is huge!” says Strayer.

What caused it? Strayer believes the frontal cortex (our executive taskmaster) of the backpackers’ brains got a much-needed break. Strayer often studies networks in the brain, especially the attention network, which typically gets pretty fried in the normal course of life these days. So many things demand our attention: emails, pings, deadlines, chores, grocery lists, elusive parking spots, and, as William Wordsworth put it, all the “getting and spending.” The world, wrote the poet, “is too much with us.” And that was in the early 1800s!

When the attention network is freed up, other parts of the brain appear to take over, like those associated with sensory perception, empathy and productive day-dreaming.

“That first day in nature, your mind is recalibrating and you start to notice things a little bit, to unwind from the modern world,” says Strayer. “You notice cloud patterns, sounds and smells, and it becomes really acute. You don’t need a watch anymore. You forget what day of the week it is.”

The Strayer team’s results caught the attention of some other neuroscientists, such as University of Nebraska researcher Frank Ferraro III, who normally studies addictive behaviors. Curious to see if he could replicate the creativity findings, he gave a similar RAT test to college students before and after a six-day canoeing trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. This time he also had a control group, a bunch of students who would take the test six days apart in a classroom setting. The earlier results were confirmed: The campers showed a 50 percent improvement after the trip, but there was no meaningful change in the control group.

An older study suggests the cognitive surge isn’t just a vacation effect. In 1991 psychologist Terry Hartig and colleagues tested backpackers as well as people taking sightseeing and other types of vacations, and found increased performance only in the backpackers.

Now Strayer is drilling down further to a part of the attention network, the midline of the frontal cortex, where theta waves become active when we are performing demanding cognitive tasks. He already has data indicating those waves quiet down out in nature, but not, notably, if you’re using your phone at the same time.

His advice: Go outside for three days, and turn the phone off.

Ken Sanders agrees. “I think it takes the first two days and nights to wash away whatever veneer of civilization you have brought with you. The new reality begins on that third day.”

Borrowed on May 8, 2020 from:  https://www.rei.com/blog/camp/the-nature-fix-the-three-day-effect

Shinrin-Yoku

I’ve loved hiking in the woods ever since my Aunt Ree took me on my first walk in the woods as a small child. It felt like I entered a brand new world – a magical world of trees, moss and animals. A world apart from my normal everyday life, which was far from magical and far from peaceful. I still remember having my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with her on a stop along the trail. It was the most peace I had ever felt. Still today, I find solace in the woods, and hike as often as possible. 

Tomorrow I am taking a class in Shinrin-Yoku –  or “forest bathing”.  I already KNOW how great I feel after being in nature, hiking, kayaking, walking – but I’m excited to learn more about the health benefits of forest bathing from a scientific standpoint. Below is a great article written by Karin Evans and published in the Greater Good Magazine.

I’ve also added a quick 1 minute video (scroll down to the bottom) for those who don’t have the time to read the article; i.e. those of you that would probably benefit from a great forest bath  😉

Why Forest Bathing Is Good for Your Health

From the Greater Good Magazine – Science Based Insights for a Meaningful Life
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_forest_bathing_is_good_for_your_health#thank-influence

Though any kind of nature can enhance our health and happiness,
there’s something special about being in a forest.

BY KARIN EVANS | AUGUST 20, 2018

“Nature deficit disorder” is a modern affliction. With more people living in cities, working in high-rise office buildings, and becoming addicted to their innumerable electronic devices, many of us are indeed experiencing a nature deficit. This is true for children and adults alike.

In his new book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, Japanese medical doctor and researcher Qing Li presents some sobering statistics: By 2050, according to the United Nations Population Division, three quarters of the world’s people will live in cities. Even now, the average American spends 93 percent of the time indoors, and some ten hours a day on social media—more than they spend asleep.

The Kumano Kodo trail in Japan

In Japan, there’s enough awareness about this deficit that Li heads up an organization called The Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, which promotes research on the therapeutic effects of forests on human health and educates people on the practice of forest bathing. His book—a companion to the center he runs—explores research on these benefits, while offering a number of techniques we can use to enhance them.

“Some people study forests. Some people study medicine. I study forest medicine to find out all the ways in which walking in the forest can improve our well-being,” writes Li.

The history of forest bathing

Japan is a country that is both urbanized and heavily forested. Trees cover two-thirds of the island’s landmass, and yet a majority of Japan’s people live in crowded city conditions. Li himself lives in Tokyo, a city he describes as “the most crowded city in the world.”

Perhaps that’s why the art of “forest bathing”—shinrin-yoku—began there. Forest bathing involves slowly walking through a forest, taking in the atmosphere through all your senses, and enjoying the benefits that come from such an excursion.

In 1982, Japan launched a national program to encourage forest bathing, and in 2004, a formal study of the link between forests and human health began in Iiyama, Japan—a place particularly known for its lush, green forests. Now, each year upwards of 2.5 million people walk those forest trails as a way to ease stress and enhance health.

Li’s interest in forest research began when he was a stressed-out medical student. He went away for a week of forest camping, and found it restored his physical and emotional health. That inspired him to begin researching the benefits of forests on human health and well-being. In 2004, he helped found the Forest Therapy Study Group, aimed at finding out why being among trees makes us feel so much better.

The healing power of the forest

<a href=“http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/052555985X?ie=UTF8&tag=gregooscicen-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=052555985X”><em>Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness</em></a> (Viking, 2018, 320 pages)

Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness (Viking, 2018, 320 pages)

After years of careful study, Li has found that spending time in a forest can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger; strengthen the immune system; improve cardiovascular and metabolic health; and boost overall well-being.

“Wherever there are trees, we are healthier and happier,” writes Li. And, he adds, it isn’t about exercising—like hiking or jogging—it’s simply about being in nature.

Why would this be? It’s long been recognized that humans have a biological need to connect with nature. Some 20 years ago, American biologist E. O. Wilson noted that humans are “hardwired” to connect with the natural world, and that being in nature had a profoundly positive effect on human health.

Li’s research seems to corroborate this. For example, one of his studies looked at whether forest bathing could improve sleep patterns among middle-aged Tokyo office workers who tended to suffer sleep deficiency due to high levels of stress. During the study, participants walked the same amount of time in a forest that they usually did in a non-forest setting on a normal working day. After a walk in the forest, participants were significantly less anxious, slept better, and slept longer. In addition, researchers found that afternoon walks were even more beneficial than morning walks.

“You sleep better when you spend time in a forest, even when you don’t increase the amount of physical activity you do,” reported Li.

To further assess the effects of time spent in a forest, Li measured people’s moods before and after walking in the woods or in an urban environment. While other studies have shown that walking anywhere outdoors reduces depression, anxiety, and anger, Li found that only the experience of walking in a forest improved people’s vigor and reduced fatigue.

The health secrets of trees seem to lie in two things—the higher concentration of oxygen that exists in a forest, as compared to an urban setting, and the presence of plant chemicals called phytoncides—natural oils that are part of a plant’s defense system against bacteria, insects, and fungi. Exposure to these substances, says Li, can have measurable health benefits for humans. Physiological stress is reduced, for example, and both blood pressure and heart rate are lowered. Evergreens—pine, cedar, spruce, and conifers—are the largest producers of phytoncides, so walking in an evergreen forest seems to have the greatest health benefits.

How to do forest bathing

So, is there a specific art to forest bathing? Or is it just as easy as a walk in the woods?

Connecting with nature is simple, writes Li. “All we have to do is accept the invitation. Mother Nature does the rest.” Here are some of his suggested steps.

Find a spot. Depending where you are, find a good source of nature. One doesn’t need to journey deep into a forest for these benefits. Just look for any green area. It could be an urban park, a nature preserve, or a trail through suburban woods. Forests with conifers are thought to be particularly beneficial.

 “Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you,” Li says. Some people will respond to sunny glades, others to shadier places. Listen to your own wisdom. For people who don’t have access to a forest, or can’t get outside for some reason, infusing essential tree oils in your home can provide benefits, too.

Engage all your senses. “Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and feet,” says Li. Actively listen, smell, touch, and look. “Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm.”

Don’t hurry. Slow walking is recommended for beginners. And it’s good to spend as much time as possible. You’ll notice positive effects after twenty minutes, says Li, but a longer visit, ideally four hours, is better.

Try different activities. Try doing yoga in the woods, or Tai chi, or meditation. Take a picnic. Write a poem. Study plants. You can venture alone, or with a companion. In Japan, forest walking therapists are even available.

Appreciate the silence. One of the downsides of urban living is the constant noise. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a wooded area that’s free from human-produced sound. Silence is restorative, and a forest can have its own healing sound—rustling leaves, a trickle of water, birdsong. Spend a few quiet moments with a favorite tree. If nothing else, when we connect with nature we are reminded that we are part of a larger whole. And that, Li notes, can lead us to be less selfish and to think more of others.

Li’s book, which includes illustrations and a map of “40 Beautiful Forests Across the World,” is an invitation and an inspiration to take a walk in the woods, wherever you are.

VIDEO:  What is Japanese Forest Bathing and How Can It Improve Your Health?

The Biology Of Belief – Dr. Bruce Lipton

Dr. Bruce Lipton’s “The Biology of Belief” – Full Lecture

This is a must see for everyone ~ particularly those of you that want scientific proof that our thoughts do INDEED impact our reality…

The 7 (Proven) Keys to Improving Your Mental Health!

In honor of World Mental Health Day!!

THE 7 (PROVEN) KEYS TO IMPROVING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

Taken from Melli O’Brien’s blog, with permission from Melli ~ one of my FAVORITE mindfulness teachers! 

AddictionAnxietyArticlesBrain HealthDepressionHappinessHealthHelpful Habits, Mindfulness, Research, Stress

Did you know that one in five people these days are affected by mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression? These days many of us are also struggling with stress and overwhelm as the pace and demands of life increase.

I believe now more than ever we all need to commit to making our mental health a priority.

In honour of World Mental Health Day, here are seven proven tips that will improve your mental health and boost your well being.

1.  EXERCISE REGULARLY

It’s well known that exercise is important for keeping our bodies healthy, but did you know that exercise is also vital for good mental health? Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health, reduced risk of developing mental illness and greater emotional well being too.

 HOW EXERCISE BOOSTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

  • Exercise increases your energy levels both mentally and physically.
  • Exercise helps you sleep better, and good sleep helps regulate your emotions.
  • Exercise can improve confidence and self-esteem as you achieve a healthy goal and take care of yourself.
  • Exercise changes hormones and chemicals in the brain in mood boosting ways including an ‘endorphin rush’ that increases feelings of calm and happiness as well as improving focus and memory.
  • Physical activity can be an outlet for irritation, frustration and bad moods.
  • Exercise is a powerful way to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness. For example research suggests exercise can be as effective as medication or speaking to a psychologist for overcoming mild depression.

 THINK ABOUT STARTING SMALL

Keeping physically active doesn’t have to mean working out at the gym, it can be simply going for a walk in the park. Experts advise that at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week is ideal. If you’re not currently exercising why not start small with a goal that feels immediately achievable – like just 5 to 10 minutes a day. Start small and you can build up from there. This is often the best way to form new habits.

2.  PRACTICE MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness (a form of meditative awareness) involves training our attention and learning to have a more wise and skillful relationship with our own minds. Mindfulness teaches us to unhook from unhelpful and unproductive thought patterns and behaviours. It involves learning to steady our awareness in the present moment rather than getting lost in our heads worrying, ruminating about problems or locked into self-criticism or negative judgements.

 RESEARCH SHOWS THAT MINDFULNESS…

  • Reduces stress, depression and anxiety
  • Increases stress resilience
  • Brings feelings of peace and inner calm
  • Improves relationships
  • Improves overall sense of well being and life satisfaction

3.  EAT A HEALTHY DIET

What we eat affects how we feel. If you’ve ever watched how quickly sugar can have an effect on the mood of small children (and adults too) or if you’ve ever felt dull and tired after a heavy lunch of carbs you’ll have seen and felt the effects that foods we choose to eat can have.

But it’s not just sugar and heavy carbs. All kinds of foods can also have short-term as well as long-lasting effects on your mental health. Your body needs a mix of nutrients and minerals to function well, so making sure you’re eating a good diet is truly vital for mental health.

A HEALTHY DIET INCLUDES

  • A variety of fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • A good source of protein, from either fish meats (from good sources) or plant-based
  • Regular water consumption 6- 8 glasses per day
  • Potentially dairy, grains and complex carbohydrates like beans, lentils, pumpkin etc

               TRY TO LIMIT

  • How much caffeine you drink
  • How much sugar is in your diet
  • Taking in a lot of intoxicants
  • Things you are intolerant or allergic to

4.  DRINK IN MODERATION

Many people who overindulge in drinking alcohol (or other substances) commonly do it to change their mood. Although it may numb or overcome a difficult feeling for a while, the effects are short-lived. Alcohol doesn’t deal with the causes of difficult feelings or solve our problems. It makes them worse. There are much healthier ways of dealing with difficult feelings including the other ones listed in this post.

Occasional drinking in moderation is quite healthy and enjoyable for most people. As a useful guide to drinking in moderation, keep in mind that the daily alcohol limit recommended by alcohol.gov.au is no more than two standard drinks per day. 

5.  PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION

Do you have a harsh inner critic? It’s common to beat ourselves up and berate ourselves but research shows this habit of self-criticism comes at a price: It makes us lose confidence, feel unhappy with our lives and even leads to depression and anxiety.

Self-compassion is a way of relating to ourselves more kindly and studies show it makes us happier and gives us better overall emotional well being (as well as a whole host of other benefits too).

In a report published by three German psychologists, which examined 79 studies on the link between self-compassion and well-being, they reached this conclusion: People who are kinder to themselves tend to be happier.

Kristin Neff, who has been a pioneer in the study of self-compassion says, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.”

You can try some exercises to learn greater self-compassion as well as some guided meditations here. 

6.  KEEP IN TOUCH

We humans are social animals. We crave to feel connected and supported and to feel valued by others. Studies have shown that social connection is a vital key to good mental health.

Good social connection has even been linked to having a longer life. In one study on an elderly population people with strong social and community ties were two to three times less likely to die during the nine-year study.

Sometimes social connection can be a heart-to-heart talk over coffee but sometimes it can be a short phone call, or an email or message. Make sure to make time to connect with the loved ones in your life on a regular basis.

If you feel your current social life isn’t giving you enough connection, you can take steps to form new ones such as

  • Enroll in a class or hobby that interests you. You’ll be able to connect with others who share a common interest as well as getting out there and trying something new.
  • Join a book club, hiking club or other group such a knitting, meditation groups, fitness groups, community gardens or mothers groups.
  • Try volunteer work. Not only will you bond with other volunteers and recipients but helping others gives you that warm fuzzy feeling too.
  • Reach out and connect to people. Ask people out for coffees, dinners or to events like movies or bands. Try to get out and meet new people.

7.  DO SOMETHING YOU LOVE

What activities do you love doing just for the fun of it? You know the ones you really lose yourself in? Take some time each day to do things you love and just enjoy yourself.

It could be engaging in a hobby like music, art, gardening or going hiking or riding and bike. It could be just having a cup of tea in the sun. Take some each week (or even each day) to just enjoy life and let go of all your cares and worries for a while. Research also shows that it improves confidence and self esteem as well as improving our overall sense of well being.

How to Live Your Truth Part 1 – Melli O’Brien

How To Live Your Truth: Identifying Your Values & Mastering Mindful Living

From: http://mrsmindfulness.com/how-to-live-your-truth-identifying-your-values-mastering-mindful-living/   taken: January 19, 2017

Do you know what the most common regret people express on their deathbed is? It’s “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

This blog post is about how not to have that regret on your deathbed.

So, what stops people from living a life that’s true to them?

Two things.

The first thing that stops people from living a life that’s true to them is the fact that they never defined or got clear on what’s true to them. They never got clear on what their own deepest values are and what’s meaningful to them.

When we feel out of touch with the deepest and truest part of ourselves, it’s all to common to fall into just following societal norms and values (which are often very different from your own) or we submit to doing what our loved ones want us to do (often in an attempt to get them to like/approve of us) instead of what we really want to do. Sound familiar?

“‘Cheshire Cat,’ asked Alice. ‘Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?’ ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to go,’ said the Cat. ‘I don’t much care where,’ said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter where you go,’ said the Cat.” –Lewis Carrol

The second thing that stops people from living their truth is a lack of awareness. A lack of mindfulness. Without mindfulness we tend to live much of our lives on ‘autopilot’ and when we’re on autopilot we often fall into conditioned, mechanical patterns of thought and behavior… most of which we did not consciously choose, and most of which was handed down to us from our culture and upbringing. Living in unawareness like this leads to a sense of discontent and disconnection from ourselves.

Mindfulness means waking up out of autopilot and connecting deeply with ourselves and our lives. It’s the ‘art of conscious living’ as Jon Kabat-Zinn likes to say. Mindfulness gives us the capacity not only to ‘listen to our hearts’ and to stay in touch with what’s meaningful to us, but it also gives us the ability to respond (from our values) and not to react (from old conditioning).

In other words, mindfulness is needed in order to LIVE your values on a daily basis.

What Are Values & Why Are They So Important?

We all have values – they are as much a part of us as our blood types or our genetic make up. They are as unique to us as our individual thumbprints. Our core values determine what’s really important and meaningful to us.

Values are who you are in your own deepest nature, not who you think you should be in order to fit in. They’re like a compass that points us to our “true north.”

When the way you think, speak and behave match your values, life feels very good – you feel whole, content, in your power. But when these don’t align with your personal values, then things feel… wrong. Life feels uneasy. You feel out of touch, discontented, restless, unhappy.

As you can see from the number one regret of the dying, there is a steep price to pay for not living according to ‘what’s true to you.’ When life feels ‘wrong’ many people try to ‘fill up’ through external pleasuring or they may try numbing or distracting themselves by keeping busy… but until you come back to living your truth, until you come back to this internal homeostasis of balance and ease, those efforts to ‘fix’ things externally will be futile.

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one that you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”
–Joseph Campbell

This is why making a conscious effort to identify and live your values is so vitally important. Here is a simple six-step process to help you identify your own core values…

How To Discover Your Core Values in Six Simple Steps…

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.  Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

STEP 1: EXPLORE

Let’s start of with an exercise to help you clearly identify your core values. Grab a pen and paper or perhaps you can choose to take notes on your computer or device.

Can you recall a moment where you felt totally yourself? A peak moment of life when you were in your element, when everything just felt… aligned? A moment when you felt happy and fulfilled? Take some time to recall this peak moment. When you’re ready, take some notes describing this peak moment in some detail.

For example, here is one of my own recent peak moments:

I had been teaching a retreat for four days and we (there were 40 of us all together) were doing a ‘closing circle’ since the retreat was coming to an end. As people began to share one by one, they really opened their hearts and shared very intimate stories, spoke of personal breakthroughs and deep insights into the human condition. There was a real sense of love, tenderness and camaraderie in the room. There were tears of laughter and tears of joy… we all ended up crying together! It felt so intimate, real and deeply connecting. I felt like I was doing exactly what I should be doing.

Once you’ve written down a peak experience of your own then…

STEP 2: EXTRACT

Ok, now that you have your peak experience written down, think about what values were being expressed and felt in that moment. What was important to you about this moment that made it so special?

From the moment I described above, I can extract that I value:

-Love and connection
-Working with people to help them suffer less and be happier (Contribution)
-Being open, vulnerable and authentic
-Feelings of courage and strength
-Vitality – a deep sense of aliveness

So now jot down a couple of things from your peak moment. Got them?

STEP 3: CHOOSE

Pick one or two values that you’ve identified as most important to you. Write them down on your paper.

Out of my five values identified above, I feel like ‘contribution’ is the one that is most important to me in my life. A close second would be ‘love.’

STEP 4: DEFINE

Now write a little bit about what your chosen value (or values) means to you. Different words mean different things to different people so it’s important to define what this value means to YOU in your life.

To me ‘contribution’ essentially means that I am being kind and caring… I am expressing the love in my heart. I am helping the world to become more peaceful, happy, healthy and in harmony. Contribution is an outward flow from my innate feelings of love towards life. The value of ‘love’ is very closely related but subtly different to me. Love as mentioned above means to me that I am feeling a deep sense of connection with another being or with life in that moment.

Write what your values mean to you, and then…

STEP 5: NAME

Choose a value name that feels right to YOU. Like I said, different words can mean different things for people so it’s important to define how this word is meaningful to you.

For instance, the word contribution to me is only meaningful if I am truly expressing my innate love for life.

I wouldn’t feel I was expressing my value of contribution if I were doing someone a favor, for example, but doing it begrudgingly. To me it always has to have genuine loving energy behind it. Contribution to me is active. Another word for contribution, in the way I mean it, could be ‘kindness.’ In fact, I feel that word fits better for me so I an going to name this value ‘kindness.’

Also perhaps to someone else ‘love’ would mean romantic love or it might mean speaking and acting in certain ways. My personal value of love means to me that I am experiencing and expressing feelings of connection and intimacy with a being or with life. So ‘love’ is my second value name.

What are yours? Jot them down.

STEP 6: REPEAT & REVEAL YOUR CORE VALUES

Now that you have one or two values you can now repeat steps 1 to 5 until you have a set of 5 to 7 values. We call this your set of core values. You may notice the same ones coming up again and again and that’s fine.  See though, if you can explore the new ones that come up as you go through the steps again until you have your core 5 to 7.

Next week we’ll talk about how to LIVE your values in daily life (the most important part!) so stay tuned for that. But one more thing I’d like to make clear about values before we go.

The Difference Between Values and Goals

There is an important distinction that needs to be made between values and goals.

Values provide a deep sense of ongoing direction for our lives – they are not ends in themselves. Goals are things that we want to achieve or do – they are often ends in themselves. Values always exist in the present moment… they can be drawn on at any given moment. Goals are in the future.

Values Are Not Rules Or Commandments

Some spiritual traditions tell people what they should value and how they should act but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Values, in the way we speak of it here, are freely chosen by YOU. Your true values are not imposed on you from external sources. They come from listening to your heart and tuning in to what matters the most to YOU.

In order to live a life that is true to you, you must be willing to be completely honest with yourself about what you value most in life.

Values are not rules or commandments and they’re best held lightly. They don’t need to become rigid or static. Values may take new forms and change and develop over time.

Now you know what your values are. In the next post I’ll give you two powerful mindfulness-based practices to help you live your values in daily life. See you then!

Of course, as always, please let me know if you have questions and comments in the comments section below. I’d love to hear how you go with it

With warmth,

Melli

Anxiety and Mindfulness

Another great blog post written by Melli O’Brien

AKA Mrs. Mindfulness

 Busy & Stressed?

3 Tips to Make Your Day More Mindful

 I just came back from teaching my four-day retreat ‘the art of mindful living’ to forty wonderful people.

Throughout the course of those four days it became apparent that a common challenge in most of their lives was stress. They are not alone.

According to WebMD, currently 75% to 90% of doctor visits are due to complaints and illnesses related to stress (1) and Psychology Today refers to stress not just as an epidemic, but as a pandemic now (2). Stress is rampant and on the rise, especially in the west.

Trying to do too much can certainly be one factor involved in the emotional state of stress but busyness does not necessarily mean stress.

multitasking

In my life right now I am the busiest I have been in years. There are many things that need doing during the day. My man and I are juggling preparing our house for sale, running two businesses and getting ready to move.

When my schedule is very full like this I employ some tricks and ‘cheats’ to maintain mindfulness during my workday. I am going to share the three here that I find the most potent and easy to introduce to your daily routine.

1. Mindfulness Bells

In France there is a famous ‘mindfulness monastery’ called Plum Village. At random intervals during each day the sound of a ‘mindfulness bell’ echoes through the village. Upon hearing the sound every person stops whatever they are doing and takes a moment to simply be.

These pauses in the day are an opportunity for people connect deeply with themselves and to the present moment.

You may not be at a monastery but you can introduce mindfulness bells into your day. I use an awesome iPhone app called ZAZEN.

The free version that I use has two settings. One is a meditation timer but the other is a mindfulness bell which you can set to go off at intervals during the day – either 15, 30 or 60 minutes.

When you hear the sound of the bell take a brief pause from whatever you’re doing and take a deep slow conscious breath.

If you don’t have an iPhone you can get creative and set up another kind of mindfulness bell into your day.

2.Mindful Transitions

Many of us have a habit of rushing through our days as if there were a finish line we’re trying to get to. Instead of rushing from task to task practice mindful transitions.

This simply means that when you have completed a task – like say making breakfast – pause for a moment before moving to the next thing (which in this case might be walking to the dining table) and take one of those deep slow conscious breaths mentioned above.

This brings you back into the moment and therefore is a natural antidote to stress (it’s almost impossible to be fully present in the moment and stressed at the same time!).

One of the most potent places to practice a mindful transition is in the car. Once you sit in the drivers seat stop, breathe and connect – then move.

3.One Thing At A Time

Studies show multitasking is a less efficient way to do things (3). To be more accurate, what these studies show is that multitasking is a myth.

What most people think of as multitasking is actually a very quick shifting of attention from back and forth from task to task – and this rapid shifting of attention leaves you vulnerable to stress.

Being that multitasking is less efficient and also potentially harmful there is no reason to do it. Kick the habit!

Keep your focus on one thing at a time. Be fully present in the moment for each task as you do it (after all this is your life!). Not only will you be more efficient and make less mistakes but you will also be happier and notice a natural sense of peace arising as you go about your day.

Try these 3 tips out and let me know how they go for you in the comments section below. Do you have your own mindfulness tips to counter stress? Share them too!

Love Melli

  1. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/effects-of-stress-on-your-body
  2. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mind-wellness-awareness/201207/the-stress-pandemic

3) http://www.psych.utah.edu/lab/appliedcognition/publications/supertaskers.pdf

 

The BodyTalk System – Part 1 – What is BodyTalk?

Enjoy Part 1 of What is BodyTalk?

presented by BodyTalk’s founder Dr. John Veltheim.

 

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