Ringing in the New Year can mean ringing in some new resolutions, too. While you might instantly think of common resolutions related to improving your health—lose weight or exercise more—one habit that could lead to a great and healthy year doesn’t include a costly gym membership. ELEOS Psychology Center can help you make this year less stressful through learning and practicing mindfulness when you need to relax.
Shedding stress is important to your health and happiness. The physical and emotional effects of chronic stress can cause long-term damage. Instead of returning to a normal hormonal level, chronic stress causes your body’s stress-response system to consistently stay on high alert. This prolonged activation of stress hormones can cause physical harm, such as headaches, weight gain, heart disease and high blood pressure, and emotional harm like anxiety and depression. These effects can build up and become overwhelming, causing only more stress to compound.
Our therapists are here to help you stop the cycle of stress this year. With practice and patience, you can learn the skills needed to curb stress and find joy. Through mindfulness and deep breathing techniques, you can learn to calm your reaction to stressors as well as have more control over your own mind.
Where to Start with Practicing Mindfulness
When confronted with an emotionally or physically daunting event, your feelings and thoughts might get the better of you. Your original stressor might be accompanied by more negative or unhelpful ideas, which will only lead you to feel worse than before. Learning how to feel without judging yourself or thinking negatively is crucial to achieving relaxation. The therapists at ELEOS can introduce you to mindfulness; a way to become self-aware and achieve stability of your mind.
Achieving mindfulness means having the ability to recognize your thoughts and feelings as they are in any moment without judging them. Being mindful means acknowledging how you feel without getting swept away in the feelings themselves. Learning how to be more conscious of your mind takes time and practice, but ELEOS can help you quickly establish a daily routine to help you begin practicing mindfulness on your own.
Pausing in a moment of stress and purposefully acknowledging and paying attention to what’s happening in that moment is what being truly mindful involves. This means cutting away thoughts about the past or the future, which could stir up past pains or future worries. It also means realizing your bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions and letting them pass through you as you move onto the next moment. Think of a stressor as a cloud: You see it coming, you pause to appreciate it and acknowledge it exists, and you let it pass by without judgment. That one moment doesn’t affect how you feel or act after it has passed.
This may seem like a difficult habit to get into, but with the right techniques and practice (and help from ELEOS along the way), mindfulness can be the New Year resolution to help you lead a less stressful year.
Deep Breathing Can Help You Become More Mindful
There are many relaxation techniques that you can use in times of stress or at any time throughout your day. While they are all effective, one of the simpler techniques to start with includes diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing. Deep breathing plays into mindfulness as it helps slow you down and renders you more conscious of what’s happening in the present. With this technique, you’re forced to pause from getting swept away in especially frantic and stressful events when you take deep, slow breaths using your diaphragm.
The diaphragm is a large muscle below your lungs, near the base of your rib cage. It’s your most efficient muscle for breathing and enables you to take larger breaths as oppose to the quick and shallow breaths from when you breathe using just the upper region of your lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing slows your breathing rate, uses less energy, pushes more oxygen into the bloodstream and forces you to be more conscious of the moment and what you’re doing. Utilizing deep breathing when you feel impending stress interrupts your body’s “fight or flight” response, therefore triggering relaxation and a level head.
The initial benefit of deep breathing is that the act of consciously taking breaths and exhaling will help slow racing thoughts and emotions as well as distract you from negative thoughts that are rearing their heads. Just as with mindfulness and becoming conscious of the present, deep breathing helps teach you to take back control of your thoughts and where your attention is—you’re taking your mind away from negative or stressful feelings and applying it to your breathing exercise. Supplanting negativity with relaxed breathing is like taking the weapon away from a bully. Without your full attention and energy, stress can’t really attack you as it would if it had your full consciousness.
To begin with diaphragmatic breathing, let’s first find your diaphragm. You can do this by lying down or sitting in a chair. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Now, take a deep breath, but focus on expanding the deeper, lower regions of your lungs instead of the upper region. Much like you fill a glass of milk from the bottom up, deep breathing is like filling your lungs with air from the bottom up, too. You’ll know you’re breathing with your diaphragm once the hand on your stomach rises with your breath while the hand on your chest doesn’t rise at all.
Once you’ve found your diaphragm, you can start deep breathing. With your hands in the same positions as before, slowly breathe in through your nose. Your diaphragm should be rising and pushing against the hand on your stomach. Once you’ve inhaled as much as possible, tighten your stomach muscles and slowly push the air out through pursed lips. Through the process, remain conscious of your breathing as well as how it feels, what you’re thinking and what emotions may be affecting you—be mindful during this relaxation technique.
At first, practice deep breathing in 5- to 10-minute intervals three times per day. Once you get used to the technique and the feelings of letting moments pass through mindful breathing, deep breathing will become a habit that will activate when stressors come over the horizon in your day-to-day life.
ELEOS Will Help You Find Your Peace of Mind in the New Year
You don’t have to live in the throes of a stressful and hectic life. Practicing mindfulness and diaphragmatic breathing will help you be conscious of the present while allowing negative thoughts and emotions to be fleeting. You’ll slow your heart rate, expend less energy and be more relaxed as you halt stress and negative thoughts before they get the better of you. To start learning deep breathing and how to be truly mindful for a more relaxed new year, send us a message today. Relaxation is just a few deep breaths away.