By: Courtney Faunce, M.A., Lifescape Counseling Services
Our amazing bodies have multiple systems in place that have allowed us to evolve and respond to almost any situation. Rest and relaxation (parasympathetic nervous system) is actually a biological system we all have and need to be using on a daily basis for optimal mental health and overall functioning. Yes, we are required to relax!
The parasympathetic nervous system works in conjunction with the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze response), triggering the body to secrete hormones to decrease blood pressure and heart rate, digest food, and induce a a state of physical and mental relaxation. So how do we activate this parasympathetic system?
Breathing deeply and mindfully helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to trigger this response. Shallow breathing from your upper chest is reserved for situations where the body needs to be alert and respond quick. Breathing slowly from your belly, in the nose and out the mouth is how we use our bodies to regain a sense of calmness and peace. If this is a new practice for you, writing yourself eye-catching sticky notes or setting alerts on your phone are affective ways to make deep breathing a habit. The great thing about deep breathing is you can practice this anywhere and anytime for free! Simply put, just breathe.