2020 has to win the prize for the Year of Uncertainty. Almost everyone is in uncharted territory. The impact of this pandemic on our mental, emotional and physical well-being affects us all to one degree or another.
How can we minimize the impact of this pandemic?
One powerful way is to breath!
If you are a past or current client of mine, you already know my enthusiastic belief in the power of your breath. I have seen firsthand how people improve their lives simply by implementing breathing exercises.
A simple breathing exercise calms the mind, supports the immune system, strengthens your heart and all kinds of other great things. You can very quickly move from an anxious state to a calm one creating positive physiological responses as well. It all begins through the vagus nerve.
More and more research recently has shown that vagus nerve stimulation can make a big difference in helping depressed patients. Just this past year researchers demonstrated this type of treatment can be effective in helping with insomnia. Another study showed how working with the vagus nerve can lessen fear and anxiety.
How do breathing exercises actually stimulate the vagus nerve?
- The vagus nerve connects the gut brain to the brain in our head. The gut (the viscera) senses threat. It sends a message up the vagus nerve to the brain in your head alerting or alarming you. Then the brain in your head sends a message back down. It tells you “all is ok” or “run”, or “fight.”
- When we breathe in, our sympathetic nervous system speeds up our heart. When we breathe out, our vagus nerve releases a substance to slow down our heart through the parasympathetic nervous system. (Think parasympathetic as a parachute or a rescue response.)
Breathing in activates us and breathing out calms us or slows us down like a parachute making us safe!
When we slow down our breathing and have longer exhalations and shorter inhalations, we stimulate the vagus nerve in a healthy way. (This has been practiced in zen and yoga for centuries.)
The key is the inhale and exhale ratio. Breathing in for 3 counts and exhaling for 6 for even two minutes per day can make a huge difference.
My husband and I have set our watches to notify us every hour on the hour to pause and breathe a minimum of three times. His blood pressure has shown improvement as a result!
Others benefits are a healthier heart, better cognitive function including memory, less stress, and less activation of the fight-flight response.
There’s a Spiritual Benefit
For an added spiritual benefit, you may want to add a positive affirmation, e.g., “I breathe in peace. I exhale love and compassion.”
Breathe deeply! Breathe often…
Copyright, Denna J. Shelton, 2020
“Soul’s Journey to Self Love” eBook, chock full of meditations and affirmations, is now available for download. It will journey you to more peace, joy, harmony and most importantly – to love – love of yourself and others. Check it out!