Deep breathing, where you inhale all the way down to your diaphragm, is nature’s medicine for anxiety and depression. Deep breathing changes the entire chemistry of the mind and body, and this is how the brain processes emotional information too.
(If you’re looking for a scientifically proven method of improving your mental state using breathing techniques, check out the Wim Hof Method.)
Many people don’t realize this, because it’s a skill you learn and practice, but it’s possible to instantly disable the thinking part of the brain which vocalizes. Even mid-thought. You don’t have to let a negative thought reach the last word. You can learn to use your brain to help you, instead of hurt you.
The best way I can describe the process of disabling the thinking brain is how a crocodile points its head up at the sun, with its head tilted back, and its mouth wide open.
You’re basically dropping back down into the reptilian brain, or the more “primative” brain, instead of engaging the frontal lobe. As you practice this skill, you can do it without tilting your head, or opening your mouth.
The point that I “focus” on feels like it’s in the center of my brain, where the “third eye” is located, kind of in the back of your throat, but up. You can feel it more when you’re pretending to be a crocodile. 😆 If you give this a try, you should feel some tension release in your brain as it relaxes.
Even without knowing how to disable the thinking brain, you can interrupt a negative thought by simply saying “No,” and then taking a full deep breath to change your body’s chemistry again. Also, this isn’t a “No, go away” either, this is a “No. My heart doesn’t identify with this thought.”
There’s also a Buddhist meditation technique that you can use if you’re feeling anxious, or have any other “negative” emotion bothering you, where you breathe in, and as you’re inhaling, you say… “Welcome Anxiety,” or whatever emotion it is you are feeling.
You can do this out loud before you inhale, or in your mind while you’re inhaling, which ever feels more comfortable to you, and then you give the emotion, in this case anxiety, a home to live inside of you. As you exhale you naturally let the air flow out of your lungs instead of pushing it out, and as you do this you can simultaneously disable all the muscles in your body, and fully relax everything. Best to do this while laying down. It feels amazing.
Sometimes I do this while I’m doing other things too and I just relax my shoulders and arms and let them dangle for about 10-15 seconds. I know it sounds a bit counter-intuitive to welcome in the emotion, but it really works, it’s mental magic.
Also, there are so many misconceptions about anger. It’s okay to be angry every once in a while, but anger is also the most destructive emotion, so it does need to be treated with respect because it can and will harm you, and others. Anger isn’t inherently bad or evil though, it’s trying to tell you something important.
Your anger wants you to listen to it and understand it, by asking intellectually honest questions with your heart open and filled with love, so you can process that emotional information, and find your way back to happiness again.
I think the most important question to ask your own mind when you’re cycling through angry thoughts is, “Is that actually true?” As soon as you ask that question with intellectual honesty, the anger diffuses and branches off into other paths instead of being contained, and thus turning into a nuclear bomb.
Also, if you’re angry about a particular topic, or a certain word, or almost anything, it means you may need to learn more about that topic (we fear and reject what we do not understand), or you may need to go back to thinking about if there’s actually any reason to be angry, and using breathing to process that emotion.
Basically you are reassociating that topic in your mind with being tranquil and at peace, undoing the negative programming, and restructuring your brain.
If you do this enough times you can flat line your emotions around a particular topic or word, or phrase, and make your entire mind much more stable. Your emotions won’t be fluttering around, all over the place anymore.
As a last note, if you’re still feeling a lot of chaotic emotions in your heart, you might just be dehydrated. Water is a drug too, and your brain needs it to function. Especially, when you’re overusing the thinking brain.
Anyways, this is as much as I feel like writing right now. I will undoubtedly make edits to this, and probably post it again in the future as it becomes more comprehensive.
If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them, and if you know any mental skills like these, I’m interested to hear them. Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: This is a guest post and it doesn’t necessarily represent the views of IWB.