I tell them to breathe.
While it’s become fashionable to tell friends and colleagues “breathe!” — and there are equally fashionable desk and office accessories reminding the same — there’s some serious science behind the reason that breathing correctly can reduce pain.
Get out of the shallow end of the pool
If you’ve listened to any kind of meditation audio, you’ll know that being “mindful” of your breathing is a key component to moving into a meditative state. Most of us don’t think about our breathing, until we have a problem: Shortness of breath can signal a number of serious medical conditions, from a panic attack to a heart attack. Our breath is the very essence of aliveness.
Most of the time, we take short, shallow “rabbit” breaths into the upper part of the lungs. This kind of breathing activates the sympathetic stress receptors and is designed to help us function in an emergency. Originally, of course, it was an attack by the fabled saber-tooth tiger, but nowadays, it can be a virus alert on our computer, a cyclist who almost hits us as we step off a curb, a 2 a.m. phone call when a daughter hasn’t come home yet.
But another activator of the stress receptors is chronic pain in your knee, your toe, your hand, your back. Chronic pain might just be the modern day version of that saber-tooth monster our ancestors were always (supposedly) running away from.
When we take shallow breaths and activate those stress receptors, we are triggering an increase in heart rate, which constricts the blood vessels so that circulation become more efficient — and heightens our blood pressure. This is the classic “fight or flight” syndrome, an evolutionary survival mechanism designed to get us through a crisis, and it makes perfect sense when some crazed animal, phony hacker or distracted bicycle rider is threatening your life, or at least your peace of mind.
It doesn’t make sense when your pain level is ratcheted up. In fact, it just makes your life worse.
In “fight or flight,” the body releases stress-fighting hormones and produces harmful free radicals, hiking the levels of insulin and cholesterol. And because the human body is an amazing machine, a sense of dire emergency will even stop the burning of fat for fuel — conserving it for later, in case we’ve run so far away from whatever threat is facing us that we’ve run clear out of range of food.
(Of course, this is unlikely in a place like New York City, where most of my patients reside; every block and corner offers some kind of comestible — you’d have to run pretty far to get out of range of a restaurant, deli or hot pretzel stand.)
Fight or flight response is extremely helpful — life-saving — in a momentary crisis when quick, intensive action is needed. But if this behavior persists over a long period, it is ultimately destructive and life-shortening rather than life-preserving. And, if you suffer from chronic pain, you know too well what lengthy battle that can be.
How you breathe can determine whether your body stores or burns fat. When you take shallow breaths, you don’t stand a chance of burning fat and losing weight. However, if you breathe deeply, you are activating the relaxation response (named by Dr. Herbert Benson). Not only will you feel more relaxed, but your body will also believe that it’s OK to start burning that fat again.
What does this have to do with reducing pain? Your goal in managing your arthritis pain is to keep it under control. If you focus on and regulate your breathing, it shifts the mind’s attention away from your pain and your body’s natural response to pain!
Proper breathing in a slow, controlled rhythm is the fastest pain reliever you can use. Your goal is to relax — the opposite of what the pain response is. It is normal to tense up when in pain. By activating the relaxation response you are, in fact, reducing your pain.
Here’s how to do some deep breathing for instant relief (these are demonstrated in my DVD, “Arthritis Rx,” and in the book of the same title):
Slow your breathing down as much as possible and take full, deep breaths. Try to inhale deeply through your nose and hold your breath in your lungs for a count of three.
Exhale fully by contracting your stomach slightly, then inhale until you feel your stomach expanding somewhat. Continue breathing this way for at least two to three minutes.
By deep breathing, you are delivering extra oxygen to your overstressed muscles, which allows them to relax. And you are also calming your mind and nervous system — which also will relieve your pain.
Using the deep breathing described here, you will also reduce the chronic back caused by arthritis or disk issues.
Never forget that your MIND is one of your most powerful allies in managing pain and restoring your body to full function. Practice deep breathing and unleash the potency of your mind in overcoming chronic pain.
For more by Dr. Vijay Vad, click here.
For more on personal health, click here.
Consider for a moment the possibility that you didn’t just fall into your bad mood based on a single event, but that you very gradually became immersed in a lack of happy thoughts due to an absorption of negative energy from the people around you. Perhaps a coworker made an unflattering remark to you the other day, and you’ve been trying to think of a comeback ever since. Maybe a friend called four times in the past week to vent about how her husband is a jerk and her kids don’t appreciate her and trying to be a good friend, you make her feel better by listening to every sordid detail and recalling examples in your own life when loved ones had been insensitive to you as well. The effects of these incidents may not be immediately noticeable, but each one builds upon the one before it, until they attach to you and take hold.
What this means from an energetic point of view is that little by little, your vibration has continually headed lower. It is so subtle sometimes that you don’t even realize it until it’s too late and has affected your attitude in a big way. Your thoughts increasingly grow overly negative from day to day, gaining momentum, until finally you’ve had enough! As far as you’re concerned, you are unloved and unappreciated, and no one is going to convince you any differently!
So what do we do when we realize we are the guest of honor at our own pity party? Here are three tried-and-true solutions to help you begin feeling like your cheery self again:
1) The Happiness Catalogue:
The Happiness Catalogue is where you write down all of the things you enjoy. For instance, you may list: playing your guitar (which you haven’t made time to do in years); taking a bubble bath, going out to the movies; taking your dog for a long walk while the sun shines brightly on your face; or how about baking cookies; putting together a puzzle on the kitchen table; or dancing around the house to your favorite tunes. Maybe you love flowers — go to the market and buy your special kind and just stare at them all day if you want. After all, this idea is akin to looking through a seed catalogue, full of a variety of beautiful, colorful options that are perfect just for you.
Personal happiness can only come from the experience of joy. No no one can do it for you; it has to come from feeling good on the inside. An imbalance in one’s life — caused by an abundance of negativity and a lack of fun and play — will eventually manifest into a bad attitude that will be a challenge to shake off. Put balance back into your life by doing things that make you smile.
2) Note to Self:
Try this experiment: Sit down and have your “future self” write a letter to your “current self.” Use your imagination and fantasize! The sky’s the limit! Tell your “current self” how amazing life is! The “future you” is having the time of his life! The “current you” doesn’t have to worry about a thing because that coworker who’s always rude to you took a job somewhere else — you now own your own extremely successful business — and your friend, who used to constantly complain to you, has never felt better and has nothing to say but positive things! You are able to live in the moment (which really isn’t so bad) without thinking about the past or the future, because everything totally works out. Your “future self” is loving life, and that is what you have to look forward to! All you need to do is be here now… the future will take care of itself and the past is old news.
3) E-motion Is Energy in Motion:
When energy moves through us, it takes the form of an emotion. When negative energy is trying to move through us, it takes the form of negative emotion. Therefore, if you’ve been exposed to lots of negative energy, your body and mind are going to try to release it as such. This is why an adjustment of your attitude may be in order. Crying is an action that comes out from inside and cleanses the emotions. Some people may see crying as a bad thing, making one even sadder. However, the truth is that we feel much better after a good cry! It actually elevates your vibration by making room for the joy to come in. So play some sad songs and just let it all out!
Take responsibility for your mood and choose not to stay in it. Realize that just as this energy moved into you, it must move out. Try not to be around others when in a bad mood so as not to spread the misery. Accept what it is, let it go, and allow yourself to move forward. The moment you start feeling a little depressed or begin having more and more negative thoughts, do not shrug it off and let it get worse. It’s a slippery slope. The longer you ignore these emotions, the harder it will be to detach from them and live a happy, emotionally healthy life. Nip it in the bud!
If your life is balanced, and you set aside time on a regular basis to have fun and do things that make you feel happy, then no matter what life and other people “throw” at you, it won’t affect you in such a negative way. Everything you encounter will be much, much easier to handle, because your vibration will naturally be higher, and you will not easily attach to the negative energy of others. However, if you wake up one day in a bad mood for “no apparent reason,” you’ll know that you have been neglecting that part of your life that brings you joy. So browse through your Happiness Catalog, make a “note to self,” and know that this too shall pass…
For more by Donna Labermeier, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.