In an ideal world, we would all gracefully flow through our days and our lives with the utmost in confidence and composure, and everyone would be so wonderfully amenable and easy to get along with, from our families, to our friends and peers, and to our colleagues and bosses… if only!
No matter how finely-tuned we believe our mastery is over our emotions, at the end of the day, we are all human and nothing defines human quite like “imperfection.” We know – we’re as distressed about this news as you are.
But luckily for all of us near-perfect/imperfect human beings, there’s this thing called “meditation,” and it’s as good as we’re going to get to near-perfect composure and smooth-sailing emotion.
Meditation mellows us out in several ways, including, but not limited to:
- Slowing our heart rate and blood pressure;
- Calming our parasympathetic nervous system;
- Reducing inflammation;
- Improving our mood; and
- Relieving loneliness.
You Got the Power
In fact, deep diaphragmatic breathing (inhaling to the top of your lungs – stomach out, and slowly exhaling beyond your normal length of breath – stomach in) stimulates the Vagus nerve in our brainstem, which is the little guy in charge of our parasympathetic nerve system. When it’s healthy, our heart rate slightly increases through inhalation and decreases through exhalation. The parasympathetic system is what governs our fight-or-flight response.
Our Vagus nerve is what also transmits to our brains what we call “gut instincts” and helps us to maintain grace under pressure … or not! Oh right, that thing about imperfection …
Beam Me Up, Scotty…
So how do we take control of that Vagus nerve and ensure it fires us the right instinctual response? Mindful breathing.
Every part of our body is connected to everything else, especially the Command Center, also knows as our spine and brain. Take a deep breath, and picture the air flowing in and down to the base of your spine, and hold. Then slowly breathe out, picturing the air flowing back up your spine and out the crown of your head. Do this a few times in a row and you’re already on the road to mellow.
Practice Makes Perfect
The more you practice meditative breathing, the more quickly you will feel the positive physiological changes – in your body and your brain. Soon, you’ll start to surprise yourself … like when your boss walks into your office and tears a strip off you … and you calmly stare back, almost as if it were an out-of-body experience …
But seriously, our minds and our bodies are one, and meditation helps us to connect what our western society often treats as separate entities. We can’t control the external world, all we can do is learn to manage and trust ourselves. The more we practice strengthening and feeling that connection within ourselves, the better our ability to feel stressful things in life rolling off our backs instead of charging us up the wrong way – at the very least, we’ll know we’re capable of remaining cool, calm, and collected in the face of any of life’s circumstances.