The Following is a guest post from Michele a Life Counselor and the creator of returnlove.org
Obviously, breathing is one of the most important things we need to do for survival, but it’s so much more.
We have, at our disposal, one of the greatest tools for self-management but few people are aware of it because it’s automatic (unless it fails us). In order for it to be effective we have to use it, mindfully. Conscious breathing is simply paying attention to your breathing. The physical, mental, and emotional health benefits to concentrated and proper breathing are numerous.
Breathing is one of our main physical life forces. When you breathe consciously, you are activating this life force to work for you in so many more ways than you can probably imagine.
Here are ten benefits of conscious breathing:
1. Calm Your Mind
When you are engaged in conscious breathing it means that you are focused on it. And when you are focused on your breathing, you stop thinking. This will free you from unhealthy, unproductive thoughts, especially thoughts of worry.
Worrying is one the unhealthiest, most unproductive things you can do with your mind. When you recognize a thought of worry in mind, interrupt it and replace it with conscious breathing.
2. Release Your Painful Emotions
Emotions like anxiety, anger, frustration, and hurt, are toxic to your physical and vibrational bodies.
Anger: I’m sure you have heard that you should count to ten when you are angry; well the reasons for this are twofold:
1. When there is only breathing and counting, it shuts off your thinking, ruminating, or stewing; and
2. It gives you time for the adrenaline surge produced by the anger to subside, so you can respond more rationally and calmly, because we can’t think clearly when adrenaline is pumping.
Anxiety: One of the physical signs of anxiety is a disruption in breathing, so conscious breathing seems to be a natural antidote. During times of stress, frustration, impatience, fear, and anxiety, we tend to hold our breath, or breathe quickly and take small, shallow breaths. By becoming aware of the onset of these emotions, either by recognizing the thoughts, physical feelings or the disruption in breathing, we can begin consciously breathing at the onset.
3. Eliminate Mental Chatter and Compulsive Thinking
Mindful breathing has helped me quiet my mental chatter and eliminate compulsive thinking. Rehashing what I could have done better, and admonishing myself, often abusively, for not doing or saying things well or right, occupied a lot of my thoughts.
Apart from planning, working and giving thanks, my mind is relatively quiet now. I can actually go at least an hour at times without thinking! Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Stressful situations are inevitable: you can’t control what happens around you but you can control how you react to it. Stress management is a vital tool for people of all ages and conscious breathing is one of the easiest ways to accomplish it.
When you feel stress coming on, just breathe. Come into the present moment with your breath, and the calm in your mind will become calm in your body. In this way, the stress hormones will not have time to take hold and harm your body.
5. Bring You into the Present Moment
One of the major benefits to breathing is that, when attended to, it focuses you on the present moment. As already stated, you can’t think or worry when you are mindful of your breathing. All your power is in the present moment, grasp it!
6. Improve Your Relationships
Because conscious breathing works on the above three issues, it also will help you become responsive instead of reactive and thus, can preserve your relationships, maybe even your job.
Reactivity often comes out in anger, frustration, and defensiveness. Name calling, yelling and criticizing are the byproducts, which all lead to guilt and often apologizing.
Taking a few minutes to breathe consciously during tense, difficult, challenging, and uncomfortable situations will give you time to regroup, and respond consciously from a place of love and peace.
7. Improve Relaxation
I think we’ve all had the experience of getting home from work and being unable to unwind. The stresses of the day have lodged themselves in our body so we can’t relax.
When you get home (or in your car before you walk in the house) take a few quiet minutes to be mindful of your breathing. This will calm your central nervous system which has been overtaxed during the day. (This is a particularly helpful strategy for parents and spouses whose homecoming tends to be stressful and it will double the impact of reason #6.)
This leads to the next benefit of employing conscious breathing.
8. Help you Fall Asleep
I used to have a very difficult time falling asleep. One of the main culprits was my mind. I’m sure many of you can relate to being unable to turn your mind off at bedtime.
I found that while focusing on my breathing (the rise and fall of my belly), thoughts would come traipsing through and distract me until I was back where I started. So I started choosing my thoughts. I did (and still do) think in when inhaling and out when exhaling. Usually, I will start yawing within a few minutes and generally be asleep within ten.
9. Reduce Physical Pain
According to Candace Pert, Ph.D. in Molecules of Emotions: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine “…the rate and depth of breathing produce changes in the quantity and kinds of peptides (including endorphins) that are released from the brain stem.” Endorphins are “the body’s own pain suppressors and ecstasy inducers.” They are our naturally produced morphine/opiate (synthetically produced as heroin).
Certain breathing techniques can alter our perception of pain (such as the use of Lamaze breathing during childbirth) and produce ecstasy (runners high). Specific breathing techniques can relieve headaches, migraines and reduce other physical pains. Can you believe this? Our own body can do all this by itself! We only have to breathe properly and in specific ways that target the desired effect to achieve that which people pay for (legally or illegally).
10. Improve Your Physical and Vibrational Health
Everything listed above leads to an improvement in your physical and vibrational health. All the improvements, eliminations and decreases serve to minimize mental and emotional stresses which have negative and harmful affects on the physical body…
Any improvement in the physical body will improve the functioning of the vibrational/energetic body (or bodies, depending on your level of understanding of energy medicine.) Increased physical health leads to improved flow of chi, (also known as prana or qi) another major life force. Mental and emotional stresses, when they are left unattended, lead to blocks or stagnant energy that creates dis-ease, dis-order and dis-comfort.
Conscious breathing is a free, all-natural solution to some of our most disruptive problems. There’s nothing to buy, all that is needed is for you to remember to use it.
Conscious breathing is a magnificent self-management tool (coping strategy) to teach children and adolescents, as they have all the same issues to contend with but less ability to know how. So, once you start employing conscious breathing, please teach your children of all ages by modeling, using it in front of them (indirect teaching), and/or demonstrating and explaining when to use it (direct teaching).
Remember, just breathe!
May Peace and Love be with you always,
Michele is a Spiritual-Interfaith Minister and Life Counselor who works with individuals, children and families, and wants to help you Return Love to your life, your relationships, and the world.