Healing Breaths – Shifting out of emergency mode
I remember the first time I heard Rick Hanson talk about this concept and how I’ve found it extremely helpful so I wanted to share. Rick, psychologist, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and New York Times best-selling author, says we can think of our bodies as having two modes of operation. The first is the maintenance mode. This is where our resources and energy are used to help our bodies heal, revitalize, re-energize, and basically take good care of themselves.
The other mode is when our bodies are preparing for an emergency. Now our resources and energy are diverted to prepare us for fight or flight mode. Our brains have signaled that something is wrong and we need to be prepared to take action. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises along with our cortisol and adrenaline levels. Our pupil’s dilate and our muscles tense.
This is a perfect response if we really do need to fight for our lives or run out of a burning building, but if this response is being constantly triggered by everyday stresses in our lives, our physical health can suffer. Our bodies aren’t able to spend enough time healing and rejuvenating. There are some experts who believe that if we don’t spend enough time in maintenance mode, it can promote heart disease, immune disorders, and even cancer.
A practice I’ve recently started is to notice when I’m feeling unnecessarily stressed and to think “healing breath” as I breath in deeply and slowly. I do this several times in a row. Taking slow breaths is a great way to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers our heart rate and blood pressure so we can shift back into healing mode.
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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association.