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I have found with my clients that they can make much faster progress in removing negative thoughts and emotions if they first relax their nervous system. It turns out that slowing things down allows you to speed up personal change. I’ve just posted an audio podcast guiding you through a breathing process in How to Relax. Included are the reasons for why each step will slow down your nervous system and relax your body and brain. Take a listen to the podcast on How to Relax.
In the long term you want to change the beliefs running the unconscious programs in the mind. That will allow you to quiet your mind, calm emotions, and change behaviors. Key to dismantling those beliefs is that it helps to relax. Changing beliefs can be like dismantling the house you are living in. Many of those beliefs were created as a means to protect you or feel safe emotionally. As a conditioned pattern to help you they activate during times of stress. Afraid of feeling unpleasant emotions, then activate a belief program call “eat food”, “go shopping”, “numb out on facebook” or “excel at your job”.
It might be hard to fathom, but the Inner Critic of the Judge in your mind originated out of a need to keep you out of emotional trouble. Afraid of getting criticized, or rejected, then just follow the Inner Judge’s demands to be more “perfect.” What happens when you attempt to dismantle these old “protective strategies” is that fear comes up. It assumes you will run into those unpleasant emotions or painful criticisms. The belief system assumes that if you lose these strategies that it will be “unsafe.” To the ego mind’s belief system it will seem like you are dismantling the safe house you are living in. To allow you to dismantle that house of beliefs it helps to build a new state of mind where you feel safe and relaxed. Practicing relaxation breathing allows you to create a new state of mind which then allows you to feel more comfortable dismantling old belief patterns.
Here are the keys to breathing in a way that relaxes your nervous system and brain. I walk you through these steps in breathing practice in my podcast. Try incorporating as many as you can and notice the different sensations you feel in your body for a change.
1. Focus your attention in your torso area. The heart area is the best, but the diaphragm where you will be moving most of the air is also helpful. They aren’t that far apart so you can do both
2. Make your breath consistent. Find a relaxing pace and count the rhythm of the inhale and exhale. Breathe according to that rhythm. Making your breath cycle consistent is the most important factor. It reduces your heart rate variability which then changes your brain waves from beta to a more relaxing alpha.
3. Breath down into your lower belly using your diaphragm. This corresponds to how you breathe when you sleep.
4. Breathe through your nose as much as possible.
5. Close your eyes if you have that option. If you are driving, in a meeting, or around people you can do the breathing with eyes open.
6. Lengthen your breath cycle. Once your breathing rhythm has been consistent for a while, you may find it easy to lengthen the count of the inhale and exhale. Do this if it is easy and comfortable. Then be consistent with your breath in the new rhythm.
7. When your attention drifts off, simply bring it back to your heart/diaphragm area and continue the rhythm. Let pass any need to address anything, follow up on a thought, or “fix” anything during this time. This is a practice of letting that other stuff go for now.
8. Notice any subtle changes and sensations in your body as different areas may release. This will help keep your attention inward, and avoid the stories and negative thoughts in your head. Those negative thoughts have the opposite effect to your nervous system and emotions.
I’ve guided some of my clients through this who have had a long history of anxiety and stress, and it has given them new hope that their life can be different. If they can learn to turn off their anxiety and quiet their mind in 15 min, they can do it again later in the day. If they can do it a couple times a day, that gives them hope that they can change their mind, and make those changes permanent. Once you make one level of change stick, it can motivate you to take the next steps.
This type of breathing can be done anywhere at any time. You can use it to help calm yourself out of a panic attack, or to fall asleep more easily. For best results, practice daily. The repetition over time builds neural pathways that are easier to access the more you do this. What might take you 10 min to feel relaxed in the beginning will eventually take one minute, and then later just a couple breaths. Once you establish this as a habit, you will be able to relax more quickly as the neural pathways to this rhythm will already be build in the brain. I hope you find it helpful.
Follow this link for the podcast on How to Relax