Deep abdominal breathing is one way of eliciting what cardiologist and stress research pioneer Herbert Benson dubbed the “relaxation response” — essentially the opposite of the stress response. The air that comes in through your nose should fill your lungs from top to bottom, so that your lower belly rises and falls. If you breathed along with the Hoberman sphere gif in yesterday’s post, you very likely had to breathe deep into your abdomen and engage your diaphragm to match the pace of the image.
As you breathe, you might try imagining that you are breathing in calm with every inhale and breathing out stress or overwhelm with every exhale. You can follow the suggestion of Zen Buddhist master (and author of many books on mindfulness) Thich Nhat Hahn to repeat these lines silently to yourself as you breathe in and out:
- Breathing in, I calm my body
- Breathing out, I smile.
You also can assign colors to calm and stress to help with the visualization. For example, perhaps you imagine calm as a shade of turquoise blue and stress as a bright red. As you breathe in, imagine the blue color coming in and spreading through your body; as you breathe out, imagine all of the red stress leaving through your nose or mouth.
Even a few deep breaths like this should leave you feeling more relaxed and serene.