21 Days of Gratitude

I heard someone mention recently that it takes 21 days to build a habit. This idea has stuck with me as I’ve been incorporating some healthy activities into my life more consistently over the past few months. Mainly things like meditation and exercise, which I tend to go through off and on phases with. The thought is that if I can do it for 21 days consistently, I’ll turn it into a habit that becomes part of my life.

Psychological studies show that happiness stems not from being the best, most successful, or most attractive, but from gratitude. I started a gratitude journal a few months ago. In my quiet time each morning, I write down 10 things I am grateful for. Actually 11, because I always write one more that is something I’m specifically grateful for about myself. My goal was to do this for 21 days. 

Starting a gratitude journal has a deeper purpose than just reminding yourself all you have to be thankful for in life. It’s about shifting your focus or your energy. It’s retraining your brain to look for the things that are working in your life. All too often we have this tendency or habit of focusing in on the negative, looking at what’s wrong, worrying about the ‘what-ifs’, and stressing about the ‘should-haves’. The gratitude journal is a simple tool to help us create a new habit. 

It has shifted my energy. Not just when I’m writing in it, but throughout most of my day as well. It’s a subtle, inner shift. I just feel lighter and calmer and more satisfied inside. I didn’t stop after 21 days. I like focusing my attention on what’s working. It helps me find the opportunities, even in the challenges I may face.

The reality is, there are always going to be challenges we have to face and situations we don’t feel happy about. We are always going to have negative and positive thoughts about things. That’s normal.  We do, however, have a choice about which thoughts we’re going to feed. Are you going to continue feeding the thoughts that bring you down and stress you out? Or, as those thoughts come in, can you just as quickly let them go and feed the thoughts that lift you up, bring you peace, and help you see the opportunities and solutions already present?

This November, I hope you’ll really think about gratitude. Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but how you can experience and express it everyday!

Be Well ~ Christina

Breathe

One of the most accessible tools we have to help us maintain, or bring us back to, those feelings of relaxation, peace, and wellness experienced post-massage (or post-craniosacral or Reiki treatment) is to be mindful of our breath. I’ve talked about this before, along with some resources, here.

Our breath is with us no matter where we are or what we’re doing. It’s so much a part of us, that we tend to take it for granted. Most of us do not maximize the healing potential of our breath.

So how do we do that? Sure, there are meditation practices and breathing exercises we can do, but those usually involve setting aside a certain amount of time in our day to practice. And while I certainly believe dedicated practice is an important aspect to learning to breathe more fully, I think we can start out even simpler than that.

In fact, we can start right now.

Stop.

Right now, in this very moment, take a breath in. Inhale deeply, feeling your belly expand and your chest fill. Exhale FULLY. This part is very important! Gently contract your diaphragm (or your stomach muscles) to push ALL of the air out of your lungs. You’ll be surprised how much more air there is to be released beyond what you’re used to exhaling! Now relax your stomach muscles and feel your body naturally fill with a nice deep inhale, like a vacuum sucking in the air.

How do you feel? I just timed myself doing that and it took just under 20 seconds.  20 seconds. In one minute, you could take 3 of those breaths. Personally, I feel more centered, more aware, more focused. My brain feels clearer, my body feels calmer. And that was from just one breath!

We have so many reminders in our day to be mindful of our breath. Use your breath to help you respond (rather than react) to negative or challenging situations. Use it to be more present in the moment, so you can more fully enjoy the positive and fulfilling experiences in your life. You don’t have to keep your attention there forever. Just take one breath. Maybe even 2 or 3. And then respond or enjoy as appropriate.

So try it out…

When you feel tired, breathe.
When you feel eye fatigue from staring at a computer screen, close your eyes and breathe.
When you feel nervous, or anxious, breathe.
When you feel irritated with someone, before you react or snap back with words or actions you may regret, breathe.
When your attention is drawn to the beauty of a landscape, breathe.
When you’re with people you love, breathe.
When you’re taking part in a hobby or something else you enjoy, breathe.
When someone tells you they love you, breathe.

Breathe.  Let your life be a meditation.

Be Well ~ Christina

The single most effective relaxation technique I know…

…is conscious regulation of breath. –Dr. Andrew Weil

Our breath is one of the processes in our body we so easily take for granted. Like the beating of our heart, our breathing will continue without any conscious effort on our part. The amazing thing is that we can consciously and intentionally influence and control the flow of our breath, allowing for a bridge between our conscious and unconscious mind.

It’s easy to notice how our physical and emotional states can have a great impact on the state of our breathing. When we’re in pain or experiencing strong emotions our breathing may speed up or we may find ourselves constricting or holding our breath. But it also works the other way. Conscious breathing can bring about changes in our physical and emotional states. Dr. Weil says that“practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”

There are many breathing practices we can use to help us transform our breath and the state of our physical and emotional health. Awareness is the first step – simply pay attention to your breathing.  Another simple exercise is to consciously attend to your exhalation. By completely exhaling the air in your lungs, you naturally create room to more fully receive air into them. This allows for a healthier delivery of oxygen to the body and removal of carbon dioxide from the body.

Here are some resources to explore if you’re interested in learning more:

Breathing: Basic How-To’s and Breathing Exercises – Dr. Weil

Breathing Lessons – An App I just discovered that I’m looking forward to trying out!

The Miracle of the Breath – Andy Caponigro

Sudarshan Kriya – The Art of Living Foundation

The breath has a great secret to offer. –Sri Sri Ravi Shankar