There is nothing you can do to change your depression or anxiety, except take medication. Right? Not necessarily. There certainly is a place in the treatment of depression and anxiety for properly prescribed and well monitored medications. And there are some tools that you can use to help yourself. Some simple techniques that change how your breathe can help your mood also. Now, when someone tells you to just breathe, you can improve your mood by doing so!
What the yogis have known for a long time is that breathing has much to do with our health, our mood and our well-being. Yoga students practice observing, changing and utilizing their breath in class. And now, neuroscience can help explain why altering the patterns of our breath impacts our health and our moods.
Thanks to the pioneering of Dr. Stephen Porges, we have some powerful science to back the breathing techniques used by yogis and mindfulness experts. Dr. Porges developed the Polyvagal Theory which integrates anatomy, neurophysiology, and psychology. This pioneering work has changed the way we treat trauma, have healthier responses to stress and be nicer to our partner and kids. Without digressing into a 3-hour lecture on anatomy, physiology and psychology, suffice it to say, we can affect our bodies and our minds in positive ways using a few techniques.
Change Your Breath, Change Your Mood
Here are some simple techniques you can do anytime, anywhere to shift your mood. Shifting the balance of inhalation and exhalation length changes your mood and energy.
1. Enhance your mood. Get pumped for that big project – Take a few of your usual breaths. Now increase the length of your inhalations and make your exhalations shorter. Inhale quickly for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 2. Repeat 5 to 7 times. You should feel energized and more alert.
2. Reduce anxious feelings. Calm down after a hectic day – Take a few of your regular breaths. Now increase the length of your exhalations and make your inhalations slower. Inhale for a count of 4, slowly. Exhale for a count of 6 or 8, slowly. Repeat 5 to 7 times. You should feel more calm and relaxed.
Deep Breathing for your Whole Body
Many exercise forms include some method of deepening breathing and helping your body relax. In Bioenergetics, we use the breathing stool or exercise ball to open the entire core of the body and deepen breathing. This is an excellent way to begin and end your day. Doing this regularly also helps to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression.
How to Use the Exercise Ball
Sit on the ball with your feet comfortably on the floor. Slowly roll your body onto the ball so your entire back in supported by the ball. Now let yourself breathe fully and slowly. Allow your arms to go behind your head, if that is comfortable for you. Allow your body to be held up by the ball. Let go as much as you can. Stay here for 1 to 5 minutes. Come off the ball by rolling to the floor on your bottom.
You can also watch my video about this.
Before you stand up, notice how you feel now. More relaxed? Calmer? More present? Add this to your daily routine and see how your days can change for the better.
Let me know what you think of this exercise. Your feedback about doing these exercises is invaluable to me.