Just breathe: two simple words that carry the weight of your day on them.
Breathing is a physical function that we take for granted every day. Of course we breathe, we have to breathe to live, but breathing can also be a simple act of meditation that can relieve stress in your day.
Think about a time when you’ve really been busy, frantically trying to get everything done; in that moment, you are moving quickly, thinking about the next ten items on your list. You’re feeling stressed, your breath becomes shallow, your heart rate increases and your blood pressure rises. Maybe you’re even holding your breath while accomplishing your tasks. This decrease in breathing can cause your body to activate a response from your sympathetic nervous system, triggering a “fight or flight” mode. This activation is great for survival when you’re in real danger, like being chased by a grizzly bear, but it doesn’t help us deal with mental stress. “Fight or flight” mode is meant to be used only in short bursts, it’s not healthy to have it activated throughout your day.
When we’re stressed and in “Fight or Flight” mode, often we’re told to meditate. For some people, the thought of meditation brings stress because they feel they can’t sit still or they don’t have the time or training to do it “the right way”. Meditation doesn’t have to be a big production and it doesn’t have to take hours out of your day. Taking a breath is itself a form of meditation. Even taking just one large, deep breath can help your body and your mind to slow down and focus. Taking a deep breath can signal your parasympathetic nervous system to take over, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, releasing calming hormones and even relaxing your muscles. It can be that simple to meditate during your day: just breathe.
Take a deep breath in, all the way down to your belly, and see how it feels. Take two or three more and see how that makes you feel. When you breathe in, visualize that breath as it swirls around inside your lungs. Really focus on the feeling of that breath for that moment and see how you feel. With this simple act, you’re meditating!
Meditation is contemplation, and there are many different ways to meditate. All forms of meditation can help us slow down, be in the moment and be present in life, but the quickest and simplest way is to just breathe!