It's amazing: for your entire life you'll breathe regularly and automatically. You don't have to think about it. But you can still choose to control it, whenever you want. Learning to focus on your breathing is something called breathwork, and it's one of the "simple steps" we talk about in the MOBE Guided Self-Management Program. We believe in the power of simple steps to create big changes, and there's more than one reason to explore the healing power of breathwork in your life.
First of all, you don't have to take a special class, buy a book or attend a program to practice breathwork. In fact, all it really takes is a few minutes of calm, quiet, intentional focus on the rhythm and depth of your breathing.
You already have all the equipment you need to do breath work, whether you practice for just one minute or ten. Just close your eyes (in safe circumstances, of course), and breathe long, deep and slow.
Max Strom, a teacher of breath work for over 20 years, notes that breathwork helps calm the nervous system. It's so reliable, he cites, \"Navy SEALS use breathwork to help them focus and calm before they go into battle. Navy SEALS are not New Age cuddly people. Navy SEALS only use technologies that work, they will not use anything else.\" (More from Max at the end of this post.)
Breathing deeply oxygenates the blood, which in turn causes the brain to release endorphins. This is one of the body's natural ways to reduce stress and decrease pain. (See study details link at the end of this post.)
Picture it: your eyes are closed, your mind is still and your thoughts are focused on the air moving in and out of your lungs. You're intentionally putting aside the stresses and concerns about that project at work…. the comment you overheard in a conversation… the appointments you have to schedule next week. As a result, you're focused on nothing but the basics for a single minute or more. That kind of clarity can refresh and restore both mind and body.
If you've discovered a breath-work exercise that works for you, we'd love to hear about it. And if you're just getting started? All you need to know is this: breathe in, breathe out, repeat.
Want to know more? Check out these links:
(This nine-minute video incudes about 6 minutes of a directed breathing exercise)
Next time anger, disappointment, fear, or anxiety threaten your mood, take a pause. Then, take a few minutes to try one of these research-based methods for retraining your mind to stress less.
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