Put ‘proper breathing’ on your list: Take care of yourself by learning to take a deep breath

By Danette Vernon
I recently found a list of “25 Things to Do Before You Turn 25” by January Nelson. I thought, well, even at age 52, it’s never too late to accomplish what I might have started at 25.
Number 1 on the list was, “Make peace with your parents (check). Whether you finally recognize that they actually had your best interests in mind or you forgive them for being flawed human beings, you can’t happily enter adulthood with that familial brand of resentment.”
Other random, yet pertinent advice: “Kiss someone out of your league. Minimize your passivity. Make a habit of going outside. Enjoy the light. Relearn your friends. Forget the internet. Learn to say no — to yourself. Find a hobby that makes being alone feel lovely and empowering and something to which you look forward. Forget who you are, what your priorities are, and how a person should be.
Finally, Number 25: “Quit that job that’s making you miserable, end the relationship that makes you act like a lunatic, lose the friend whose sole purpose in life is making you feel like you’re perpetually on the verge of vomiting. You’re young, you’re resilient, and there are other jobs and relationships and friends if you’re patient and open.”
Ah, Number 25 — if only I had started earlier!
So what is the easiest thing I, or any of us, could do, barring making actual changes in our lives?
We can start with taking care of ourselves by learning to breathe — yes, breathe — but deeper.
Most of us breathe very shallowly, which your body may experience as chronic hyperventilation. This breathing pattern alone may cause us to stay in a state of emotional upset. In addition, some of us even hold our breath.
“Fear stops your breathing,” Gay Hendricks, noted psychologist, tells us. He goes on to explain that animals instinctively freeze when scared, holding their breath to assess the situation and to prepare for “flight of fight.” If an “all clear” is felt, they go back to breathing normally. On the other hand, humans may maintain a traumatized breathing pattern for years.
Simply put, your belly needs to expand outwards when you breathe in, and suck inwards when you breathe out. To change this pattern to one that will promote healing, first practice tensing the stomach muscles, especially around the navel, then relaxing them. Do this just to get familiar with how it feels to deliberately tense, or relaxed them. Try this 8-10 times. Then just take a few deep breaths. Practice. Next, breath in deeply to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four, hold for a count of four.
Add an affirmation, as you breathe, if you like, “This deep breath is all I need,” or “I breathe out worry, and breathe in peace.” Try it.
Then believe that “this deep breath is all you really need” to start on the list you missed out on at age 25.

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