The former US surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, drew some startling conclusions after he wrapped up his tour throughout the country. He had stated that he was concerned about the high level of emotional pain everyone seems to be experiencing. He found that people were under a lot of stress, and he felt this was the main thing preventing people from achieving their full potential.
This alarming statement really points to the major epidemic of stress, anxiety, and depression that has been affecting people of all ages across the country. For some reason we seem to be in a catastrophic free fall of emotional turmoil. It very well could be a multifactorial process, involving variables such as too much technology or screen time, trying to stretch as much as possible out of each day, and the intense pressure of having to be productive 24/7. Regardless of the many possible reasons behind this epidemic, it calls for people that are truly concerned with health, fitness, and overall wellbeing. It is becoming increasingly important that people take the time to focus on the mind-body connection. As they say, “Strong mind, strong body” and “As the mind goes, so does the body.”
The mind is where you get the motivation and willpower to want to exercise and keep yourself in shape (or any other goal or dream for that matter). While this may come more naturally to some of us, most people struggle on a daily basis with motivating themselves to make a change in their lifestyle. The pressures of everyday life tend to pull us in too many directions, draining us of the energy we should be dedicating to ourselves.
Practicing mindfulness can be a foundation to help people reduce the draining effects of life’s pressures. (Mindfulness has been shown to effectively reduce negative feelings and their often damaging effects on our health, choices and behaviors.) This could involve any type of work that makes them more aware of their body, and thus really experiencing their breath and heart rate. By having this form of ‘biofeedback’, people can really start to be present within their own body, and then start slowing down their breathing and their heart rate, which in turn lowers their stress. Rather than turning to recreational drugs, alcohol, and even prescription medications, which have been shown to have a lot of dangerous side effects, people can choose to use more natural methods.
On top of mindfulness practices, exercise and being in nature are some other methods people can utilize to balance their stress levels. Lastly, resorting to natural stress and depression relief supplements could also help to shift your brain’s chemistry back to healthy levels.
Take Away: Don’t let stress sabotage your success. You can start being more present immediately with simple breathing exercises like this one:
• Take a normal breath in through your nose.
• Pause for a couple seconds at the top of your inhalation and then slowly exhale.
• With each subsequent breath try to increase the time of the inhale, the pause, and the exhale.
• For example: a 2 second inhale, 1 second pause and 2 second exhale (2,1,2) could be extended by 2 seconds on each of those 3 aspects to be a (4,3,4) breath.
• Pay the most attention to extending the duration of your exhale.
• The average breath is roughly comprised of a two second inhalation and a two second exhalation.
• Try to extend that to 4 seconds in, a 4 second pause, and an 8- second exhalation (4,4,8).
• Be sure to breathe from the bottom of your belly as opposed to the top of your chest.
• If you need to, place your hands around the bottom of your stomach so that you can make a stronger connection with the muscles that activate that region.
Brian Cunningham is the CEO of PureLife LLC, and has also worked as a personal trainer for Equinox.
Host of Quantum Physiques Radio and Featured Writer in Positive Impact Magazine.