In this time of ever-increasing prices for everything we consume (don’t get me started on the price of gas), wouldn’t it be great if there were a health hack that cost absolutely nothing! Have I got just the thing for you – Mindful Breathing. In my personal journey to be more purposeful with all my activities, I am just now discovering the healing potential of the one of the few things that we all do, all day long - breath.
How often do we find ourselves in a stressful situation - stuck in traffic when you are late for a meeting, spill coffee on your new dress, or dealing with a child that has a different plan for the morning than you do. Our natural reaction to these stressors is more rapid breathing, elevated blood pressure, headache, and an anxious feeling that stays with you the rest of the day. Mindful breathing represents the antidote to all these subconscious responses and can be the offramp we all need to those stressful days that just seem to spiral, uncontrollably.
So, how does mindful breathing work on the body? When we slow down and get in touch with our breathing, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the body responsible for the body’s unconscious actions specifically focused on activities such as digestion, salivation, and even sexual arousal. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, we can reduce the body’s anxiety levels, thereby lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and relieving the inevitable aches and pains that accompany anxious moments.
So, you are sold on the concept, but unsure of how to put this free health hack into use. The answer is, like with most new skills, lots of practice. The body needs to incorporate this new, healthy trigger through daily repetition. Start by getting comfortable somewhere that you will not be distracted or interrupted. As you inhale and exhale, take note of your breathing and how each breath feels. How does each breath then impact all parts of your body, through your nostrils, into your lungs, and down through your stomach. Try to focus on nothing but your breathing for 5-10 minutes each day, and you will be surprised how your positively your body responds to such a simple, calming routine. Like anything else that is worth putting the investment in, don’t expect changes the next day, but a few weeks into this routine, and you’ll start noticing a difference.
Now, mindful breathing is not a panacea for all things health and wellness and it certainly won’t make gas prices less expensive. But when used in conjunction with the individualized wellness programs we offer at the Anti-Aging & Wellness Center it can be an effective tool in our continued journey to optimal health.