Precisely forcing the crease on your perfectionist sister’s gift into a straight line, tweaking your back while shoveling snow, jaw-dropping as your eyes flitter over your nephew’s 6-page long wishlist – it’s the most won-der-ful time of the year!
Of course, we treasure the holidays – those deep winter months correlated with time off work, family parties, giving and receiving, eating. For a lot of us – time to go to the gym, sit down with a cup of tea and nothing on your mind, or an opportunity to simply relax, seems to dissipate.
We’re here to bring the relaxation, the groundness, stillness, meaningfulness, back into the crazy of the holidaze. Astonishingly, it is as simple as TAKING A DEEP BREATH.
Do You Breathe Deeply?
How often do you take a complete, full breath? One that fills from your low belly all the way up to your collarbones, and your back body as well? One that makes your body feel like a big balloon about to lift up, up and away?
In general, people don’t take deep breaths very often. We often take shallow, small breaths, filling up just one part of our diaphragm, or the upper part of our chests. Why is that?
In the western world, an expanded belly, which naturally happens when you inhale powerfully, is not always sought after,. Try maintaining washboard abs as you fill the entire space of your diaphragm with air – the abdominal region will definitely puff!
Additionally, when we suppress emotions like anger and sadness, our breath softens. It is not always culturally appropriate to cry when feel like it during a lunch meeting, or burst out in anger at home. As a result, when we squash our emotions, we unconsciously subdue our breath, or breathe irregularly.
We don’t expect you to breathe super deeply all day long! However, it is helpful to completely expand your lungs with fresh oxygen throughout the day.
Benefits of Breathing Deeply
Breathing deeply taps into the parasympathetic nervous system – the part of us that allows us to chill, relax, compared to its counterpart – the sympathetic nervous system, which holds our fight or flight response.
On a big inhale, more oxygen floods into your bloodstream, which improves circulation and helps the lymphatic system to run properly. Additionally, complete exhales naturally detoxify the body by releasing carbon dioxide.
Research studies prove that deep breaths heal the body in numerous ways:
- They revamp the immune system
- Ease anxiety
- Clear tension around the scapula and intercostal muscles
- Improve asthma
- Slow the aging process
- Help alleviate pain
Practicing Deep Breaths and Mindfulness
You know how to take a deep breath! It is in everyone’s innate nature. Practice filling up as much of your upper body as you can – start from your heart area and then move down towards your low belly. When the area around your chest is expanded first, an easy lift of your spine is maintained, which improves your posture. On an exhale, deflate first your belly, and then your chest.
Another way to practice deep breathing is a three part breath. Divide your inhales into thirds, filling up to ⅓ of your capacity to begin, with a pause between each third. Repeat on the exhales by releasing one-third of your breath at a time. This helps your focus remain on your breath rather than your wandering thoughts.
When to Breathe Deeply?
You may sit down for 5-10 minutes at a time to close your eyes, take deep breaths, and completely watch your breath move through your body. Set a timer and don’t touch your phone or open your eyes until it goes off. When a thought comes into mind, notice it, unattached, and let it float by like a cloud.
Or, you may find little moments throughout your day – when you are waiting in line, at a red light, put a pot of water on the stove – to slow down and tune in. Take a full breath in, and watch it flow.
Whenever you are feeling anger, frustration, sadness or elation, notice that. Step back from your busy brain and watch your thoughts and emotions. Observe the emotion from an outsider’s perspective, like you are simply watching yourself in a movie. As soon as you can, revert your focus back on your breath.
Overall, the clump of holidays may feel overwhelming, busy, and stressful. It is up to you to step back, enjoy a full breath of air, and appreciate each moment that you are living right now. Happy Holidays!