Have you ever been working on a problem when you realize the answer was completely obvious?
Several years ago, I remember standing in the parking lot of Sentry squinting from the sun. I felt the heat on my legs from the dark pavement below me, just another hot Wisconsin day. I pressed the button on my key fab to open the car door and there was nothing. No beep. No click. No latch releasing. The fab battery was dead. My stomach hollowed out as I thought about my ice cream melting while I waited for someone to come help me. Who could I call? Then it occurred to me, I could open the car door with the key! Duh! Instant relief and smiles of silliness appear, I think, “Oh yeah, I have a key, that’s funny!”
When it comes to stress and emotions, our breath is very much like my car key on the hot summer day. We always, always, always have it with us but we forget to use it.
Breathing is the ONLY function we can do both voluntarily and involuntarily. It connects the body and the mind making it THE gateway for greater calm and mental focus.
Simple breathing exercises have the power to;
- ground us in the moment, from scattered to centered
- change our physiology, from tense to relaxed
- give us a sense of control, a positive focal point
The plain act of drawing in air and slowly releasing it back to the environment can be healing.
If you are pissed off and want to think more clearly, breathe.
If you are sad and want to release it, blow it out.
If you are revved up and stressed, yep, slow and deep to the rescue.
But don’t take my word for it, practice for yourself. Shift your focus. Try letting the thoughts go for a small piece of time and let the body become the target of your attention. Notice the breath you breathe forever flowing like a faithful stream of life-giving water, in and out.
Controlling the breath leads to a shift in our state of being. Explore counting as you breathe. For example, 5 seconds in, pause, 5 seconds out, pause. This creates mental focus. Or if you seek greater relaxation, extend the out breath. Changing the pace of our breath creates changes in how we feel and/or the tone of our thinking. You may be amazed by how quickly you can notice a difference.
It’s our biology and crazy effective. The more we practice, the more it becomes available to us.
Pause and say hello to yourself a few times through out the day with a minute of fully attentive breaths. It’s okay to do it while you drive or while you shower. Give yourself permission to multitask if you need to. Just make it a habit to breathe consciously and this incredible gentle giant will show up when you need it most to carry you through the muddiest of mud puddles.