“…and breathe”

How many times have you heard that, or even said it yourself? Lots, right, and there’s a reason for that. Taking time out to consciously practice deep breathing has been shown to have many positive impacts on our mental and physical well being, including:

Reducing anxiety
Lowering blood pressure
Aiding relaxation
Improving sleep
Reducing stress
Calming the mind
Improving digestion
Balancing the ‘rest & digest’ parasympathetic nervous system and ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system.

If you’ve read my post about sleep, you’ll see that I’ve recommended pranayama breathing as a way to help reduce cortisol levels, but what is pranayama breathing?

Pranayama are breathing exercises where you have a conscious awareness of your breath. The term comes from the Sanskrit “prana” which means life force (breath is our life force) and “ayama” which means extension. So, roughly translated, extension of breath. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you’ve probably practiced this way of breathing already.

There are a few different breathing exercises, including one called Kapalabhati or skull shining breath, but I practice NadiSodhana, which is also called alternate nostril breathing. This one is super simple, and I find that it works really well as part of my evening mediation routine.

Some of the pranayama are energising but I like this one because it works to calm my mind and bring me in to balance so I don’t go to bed with 101 things rushing around in my head.

How to do alternate nostril breathing:
Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril.

At the peak of your inhalation, close off your left nostril with your fourth finger, lift your right thumb, and then exhale smoothly through your right nostril.

After a full exhalation, inhale through the right nostril, closing it off with your right thumb at the peak of your inhalation, lift your fourth finger and exhale smoothly through your left nostril.

Continue breathing like this for up to 5 minutes, alternating your breathing through each nostril. You may need to start with just a couple of minutes and work up to 5.

Your breathing should be effortless, so don’t force it, and your mind should be gently observing the inflow and outflow of breath. If your mind wanders, just bring it back to the breath.

Why not give it a go tonight and let me know how you get on with it?

I got 4 hours sleep last night due to a dog who refused to settle.  For no apparent reason he was agitated and kept wanting to go outside constantly.  Every time my head hit the pillow he was pawing at me to get up again. This meant that I struggled to get up this morning and I’m shattered. My eyelids need scaffolding just to keep them up and open!

Before I learnt how the mind works, with my old way of thinking I would have been pretty grumpy all day and you can bet that everyone would have heard about it.  I’ve no doubt that I also would have been slumped over my desk frantically consuming as many carbohydrates as possible and drowning myself in coffee, just to stay awake.  Then I would have spent the rest of the day blaming the dog for the fact that I’d just blown my diet by eating enough calories to last a week whilst feeling sluggish and uncomfortable.  Oh, and then being grumpy because of that as well.

Most of us have been there, right.

That was the old me, before I realised that I get to choose my thoughts and how I feel. Before I learnt why you get cravings for sugar and carbohydrates when you’re tired.  Before I knew that circumstances and other people don’t have any control over how I show up in the world, even when I’m sleep deprived.

You get to choose your thoughts.

Does that sound weird to you?

OK, so some thoughts are harder to un-choose, I get that, but learning that I’m in control of my mind, and not the other way around, was a real game changer for me and it can be for you too.  Seeing the glass half full has such a positive impact.

So now, when I’m sleep deprived I’m not stuck in a cycle of dwelling on the negativity of it all.  I’m not moaning or complaining about it, and life in general, because I don’t choose to think that way anymore.  Those thoughts didn’t serve me.  They didn’t make me feel any better and, in fact, they actually just made me feel worse. 

It takes work, of course, but that’s because the negative thoughts,have been rattling around for a very long time.  We’ve chosen them for such a long time that they now happen almost unconsciously.  But they don’t have to.

If you’re keen to change them, and want to learn how, drop me a message and let’s have a chat.

As for the carbs, well that’s a whole other blog but, for now….. when we’re tired our bodies naturally want us to fuel ourselves to help keep us awake and carbohydrates are the best form of fuel. Carbs are not the enemy. Don’t hate on carbs because your really do need them. 

My tired brain would always translate this need for carbs to a hot sausage roll, crisps, something sweet and even sugar in my coffee, even though I don’t normally have any.  Processed, blood sugar rush carbs were my go-to but not anymore.  Now I know how to give my body a good strong hit of fuel without the need for a drive to Greggs!  Though I must admit that the lure of the sausage roll is sometimes to hard to resist.