Day 12: USE YOUR BREATH
Hi everyone, and welcome to Day 12 of Confidence Boot Camp. Thanks for joining us again today. We hope you are learning a lot of helpful information and strategies to support your efforts in building up your confidence. Today’s topic, USE YOUR BREATH, falls into the Emotional and Physical domains of The Chemistry of Confidence.
Did you know that most of our breathing is shallow? And, we tend to mostly use shallow breathing throughout the day, AND we are almost always unaware of the condition. Shallow breathing can result in or be symptomatic of rapid breathing and hypoventilation. Unfortunately, we are inclined to do it at times when we most need to breathe deeply such as when we are anxious, stressed out, or struggling with breathing disorders such as asthma.
But there is good news. According to The American Institute of Stress, our bodies have an effective and natural way to combat stress by activating the body’s natural Relaxation Response. This response was discovered and the term coined by AIS Founding Trustee and Fellow, Dr. Herbert Benson, an American cardiologist and founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Benson is also a professor of mind/body medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The Relaxation Response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress. Although this state might sound like sleep, it is not. It is breathing. But not just any kind of breathing. Remember, our normal breathing tends to be shallow. We do it by using FOCUSED BREATHING. When you elicit the Relaxation Response, wonderful things start to happen.
- Your metabolism decreases (but only temporarily--exercise will amp it up again, and exercise is another excellent stress reducer).
- Your heart beats slower and your muscles relax.
- Your breathing becomes slower.
- Your blood pressure decreases.
- Your levels of nitric oxide are increased. (This nitric oxide is not the “laughing gas” you get at the dentist.) It is a molecule that our body produces to help its 50 trillion cells communicate with each other by transmitting signals throughout the entire body. Among other things, it helps our memory and behavior transmit information between the nerve cells in the brain. It boosts our immune system. It regulates blood pressure, improves sleep quality, and increases your recognition of your senses, like your ability to smell.
- Your body releases powerful feel-good chemicals called endorphins.
Here are the steps for FOCUSED BREATHING to elicit The Relaxation Response:
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
- Close your eyes. This is important because it removes distractions from your awareness and helps us to come inside of our body to focus on our breath.
- Do a quick body scan. Notice what your body is doing. Is it tense? Are your shoulders clinched up by your ears? Are you slouching? Do some gentle movements to loosen the tension and find a comfortable position. If you’re lying down, wiggle around a bit until you feel comfortable.
- Place your hands on your lower abdomen. This may feel awkward at first because we are not used to doing it, but keep your hands there and begin to tune into the sensations. As you naturally and gently palpate this part of your body, take a deep breath and notice where your breath normally stops, which is typically only about 1/3 of your lung capacity. Breathe in more air, allowing your belly to swell out and into your hands. Exhale slowly.
- Let your hands drop gently to your sides or the floor.
- Take another deep breath and as you do so, try to take in more than you think you have the capacity to do so. Expand the belly to, as Lucy says, “tickle those fields of the nerve receptors at the lower lobes of the lungs.”
- Practice for 5-10 minutes, or even less if you don’t have the time. You will instantly feel a little “softening of that amped up feeling” as your body releases endorphins. Your pulse and heart rate will slow.
- Practice 1-2 times daily for ultimate benefits.
Remember, this is a new practice that could lead you to a new habit. There are many ways to develop a practice. Try a yoga class. Every yoga class includes deep breathing and meditation. Or find an app to download on your phone or laptop. Here is a link for you to explore.
Mostly, just keep at it. Research suggests that new habits can take up to four months to fully integrate into our lives, so don’t be discouraged if it feels hard, or if you skip a few days. Just get started again and trust the process. Eventually your breathing process will become as necessary as other things you do in your life, like sleeping and eating.
Thanks for joining us today. We will see you tomorrow for our next Confidence Bootcamp experience. Remember to breathe…
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