If you are feeling tense and stressed, relief may be only a breath away. Use the time-honored stress reduction technique of deep (also known as diaphragmatic) breathing to relax muscles and reduce your stress. Breathing exercises can help you relax and increase your happiness and sense of well-being because they make your body feel like it does when it is in a state of relaxation.
Deep breathing involves your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen, and is marked by the expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest. Although the focus seems to be on the abdomen, during deep breathing, the lungs are filled with much more oxygen than during shallow or chest-breathing. Breathing oxygenates every cell of your body and deep breathing raises levels of blood oxygen, promoting health by stimulating the digestive process and by improving fitness and mental performance. Shallow or chest-breathing, on the other hand, causes a constriction of the chest and lung tissue over time, decreasing oxygen flow and delivery to your tissues.
To do deep breathing effectively, slowly inhale through your nose or mouth. Put a hand on your stomach, and as you inhale, feel your stomach gently expand. Pause for about five seconds, and then slowly exhale through your mouth, pushing out all the breath you inhaled. Feel you stomach contract. Repeat a few more times. If you feel yourself become light-headed, take a break or slow down your breathing.
You can add some very simple visualizations to maximize the benefits of deep breathing. When you inhale, imagine that you are breathing in peace and relaxation. On your exhale, imagine that you are breathing out all the stress and tension that your body is holding. Breath in peace, breathe out tension.
Another simple technique that many find helpful is to work with color and your breath. Ask yourself, what color would benefit you? Then, imagine breathing in the color or colors that come to mind for you. Breathe in that color and imagine it saturating every cell of your being. Most people who do this find that it is very relaxing and nurturing.
For added comfort during your deep breathing, gently rest one hand on your heart. Placing your hand on your heart is an excellent way to give yourself a little extra self-care.
Improve your energy, release tension and stress, and simply relax by practicing deep breathing. With approximately 20,000 breaths each day, you have plenty of opportunities to practice! Add simple visualizations to increase the sense of well-being optimal breathing can deliver to you!
Do you constantly criticize and belittle yourself? Are you your own worst enemy? How would you treat yourself differently if you treated yourself like a friend?
The advice to love yourself is a common self-help theme. This is of little help to most people, especially those who expect they should be exceptional and extraordinary in order to be worthy of self-love. While there are spiritual paths that can lead to self-love and self-acceptance, if someone has low self-esteem and doesn’t feel special, it’s hard for many people to love themselves.
An uncomplicated and easy self-care path to feeling better about yourself is to simply treat yourself as a friend. Those qualities that make being a good friend to others work as well for being a friend to yourself.
What are the qualities you value in friendship? Here are some qualities commonly recognized as key elements in friendship:
Acceptance. A true friend accepts you for who you are and doesn’t try to force you to be something you are not. A friend accepts both our good qualities and our shortcomings. Can you extend this acceptance to yourself?
Loving. A true friend is loving, kind, and generous. A friend makes us feel not only liked but loved, cherished, and cared for by their words, their tone of voice, and how they treat us. Can you be more loving, kind, and generous to yourself?
Champion. A true friend will cheer you on. A friend uses encouragement rather than insults to motivate you. A friend is optimistic rather than pessimistic about what you can achieve. Can you motivate yourself with positive rather than critical words? Can you be optimistic about your efforts.
Honesty. A true friend will tell you the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear. A friend will give you well-deserved compliments but will also call you to task when you are avoiding something or trying to disguise the truth. Can you be honest with yourself?
Support. A true friend will support you when you are going through challenges and will stand by you when you have setbacks. A friend can help put your challenges in perspective. A friend can help you see lessons that you are overlooking in the challenges that you are struggling with. And, a friend will know that sometimes all you need in time of trouble is a friend to listen to and support you. How can you offer yourself more support?
Forgiveness. A true friend is willing to forgive you your errors and mistakes. Can you forgive yourself?
One of the most important relationships you can have in your life is with yourself. Is it time to break old habits and invest in a healthy friendship with your internal self? Make the commitment to be a friend to yourself and increase your happiness by decreasing your self-criticism.
Do you consider relaxing a waste of precious time? Do you feel guilty if you aren’t constantly productive? You may be overlooking the very real benefits of time to rest and relax. Instead of a luxury, relaxation can lead to extreme happiness by playing an essential role in mental and physical health.
Stress is a major health problem and it has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, and other serious illnesses. In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress, up to 90% of all visits to doctors are for stress-related disorders.
Rest and relaxation top the list of effective self-care and stress management techniques. Relaxation boosts happiness by counteracting the stress response – muscles relax, breathing and heartbeat slow down, and the digestive system functions more efficiently. Regular relaxation strengthens the immune system and helps the body heal itself, reducing the effects of chronic stress. Incorporate relaxation into your life and notice that you begin to feel better!
While it may not seem logical, you may get more done by taking breaks and doing less. When you take a break, relax, and let your thoughts slow down, the mind begins to access the resources of the right brain – the creative, intuitive, and non-linear part of the mind. After relaxing, you may find that you approach your work with a new perspective and that you are able to generate new solutions to problems.
Relaxation further contributes to happiness by providing a detachment from everyday busyness that enables us to realize what is really important to us. When we operate from our values, we are usually happier and more satisfied with our lives.
Quick relaxation techniques are useful in dealing with immediate stress. Stopping, even for the shortest time, will recharge your batteries and will give you more energy. Create little breaks in your busy schedule. Consider your home your sanctuary and place of relaxation. Set boundaries to keep it as work-free as possible and avoid the temptation to bring work home by complaining about it.
Regular, concentrated rest and relaxation has a deeper and more permanent effect on reversing stress. Explore leisurely activities apart from your work. Choose something that you consider relaxing and that you will commit to doing on a regular basis. This might be sports, gardening, reading, exercise, or even time to daydream – whatever you choose should be something that you enjoy. There is no point in creating more stress for yourself by forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy!
Be a friend to yourself and give yourself the gift of rest. Learn to value rest and relaxation as much as you value activity. And, enjoy increased happiness as you reduce the stress in your life!