We’ve all heard that stopping and taking a deep breath can help us through a stressful moment. But what if you could condition your body to read the signs that it’s time for relaxation?
According to Moe Gelbart, PhD, director of the
Thelma McMillen Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment at Torrance Memorial, with just a little practice, you might be able to trigger your body to relax during your next one-on-one meeting with the boss or a “because I said so” conversation with your teenager.
The easiest and quickest way to de-stress in any situation is to sit in a quiet place, get comfortable, focus on your breathing and center yourself. Dr. Gelbart says some of the best resources out there for learning new breathing techniques are free and available through Apps and the internet.
But what about creating a long-term goal of breathing through mindfulness? We can create a signal—a stimulus, as Dr. Gelbart calls it—that informs our body it’s time to take a deep breath and relax.
“Our bodies are like rubber bands. If you stretch it again and again without allowing some release, it’s going to snap,” says Dr. Gelbart. “Some stress is avoidable and some is not avoidable, but breathing allows our body some relief.”
The trick is to pair the breathing with a movement or a sound. For example, touching your thumb to your forefinger or a tap on glass. If you continue to do this movement, your body will eventually become conditioned so that when you tap those two fingers, it will automatically take a cleansing breathe.
“It would be beneficial to do some sort of deep breathing once a day at first, just to practice it,” says Dr. Gelbart. “Eventually, the goal is to be able to start breathing and relaxing on demand, without it even being noticed.”