This is a guest post written by Craig Hanggie.
Imagine being able to let go of your stress producing thoughts and emotions by merely focusing on your breath. As you breathe in and out your anxiety melts away and a feeling of calm and relaxation washes over your body. Buddhist monks have been documented using this technique to control their thoughts and feelings for 2,500 years. This is not an esoteric practice that only a monk can master. The good news is that anyone can learn mindfulness techniques and reap the many psychological and physiological benefits from the practice of it.
Originally inherited from Buddhism, the practice of mindfulness is increasingly being adopted and utilized in Western medicine, psychology and counseling techniques to alleviate a diverse range of stress related mental and physical illnesses. Mindfulness is defined as a state of being in which one is fully aware, without judgment and attention is focused on the present moment.
Common mindfulness techniques include breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and Qigong but are not limited to these practices. Integrative or mind-body medicine researchers have studied and proven the biological mechanisms, which are positively affected by the practice of mindfulnes.
Over the last few decades, scientific research via MRIs and CAT Scans have demonstrated the efficacy of mindfulness exercises by observing positive changes in the brain structure. In addition mindfulness has a direct effect on the regulation of chronic worry, disease, anxiety disorders and the overall improvement of an individual’s health and their quality of life.
The easiest way to learn mindfulness is to learn how to breathe correctly and to be able to focus on the breath. Many people are unaware of their breathing and breathe from their chest, using only the upper part of their lungs. Research shows us that this type of breathing promotes anxiety, muscle tension as well as physical and mental fatigue.
Mindful breathing technique
First inhale by filling the abdomen and then CONTINUE slowly inhaling as you expand and fill the chest. Then slowly exhale first from the chest as it empties and falls and then CONTINUE exhaling from the abdomen. Do this 3 times in a row and at least 3-4 times a day and you will notice that you are more relaxed and at peace physically and mentally. For example I practice my breathing whenever I come to a stop light.
All of the metabolic processes improve with the increased supply of oxygen. Mindful breathing de-stresses, relaxes and improves concentration and focus. As it relaxes the body and offers improved emotional self-regulation or self-control. It improves our decision making skills and decreases our negative emotions. All these benefits can be acquired by merely staying focused on your breathing. At this time you can also scan your body for any muscle tension and if you are tense just release it.
Thoughts will come and go, but stay focused on your breathing. With practice you will master your emotions and be in control of your stress levels. Be well!
About the author
Craig Hanggie, MFT, IMF, MBA has earned a MS in Marriage and Family Counseling, Masters in Business, and is certified in Hypnotherapy. He wrote his Masters thesis on mindfulness and speaks on mindfulness topics. He has a thriving counseling practice in Southern California. See Craig’s website: www.craighanggie.com for more information.
Category: Love and Emotions