Blog

Eat slow, breathe deep, live well

by | Jul 9, 2016 | Uncategorized

I’ve always been a big advocate of breathing well.  Breathing gently, rhythmically and all the way down into the belly is one of the best things you can do for your health and your happiness.  It’s a very simple and embodied practice we can all do to tap into our nervous system and bring the body and mind to a state of equilibrium.

Our nervous system is made of two main branches, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).  The SNS is otherwise known as the Stress Response or the Fight-Flight-or-Freeze branch of the nervous system.  When the SNS is dominate, a number of stress hormones are released, including adrenaline, which signals to the body that our life is in danger.  And when the body believes our life is danger, it slows down any non-essential functions like digestion, resting, healing and reproduction and focuses on responding to what is perceived to be an immediate and physical threat to our lives.  Typically our breath is short, irregular and shallow.

The PNS is also known as the Relaxation Response or the Rest-Digest-Repair-and-Reproduce branch of the nervous system.  When our lives really are in immediate danger, like we’re being attacked or we step out in front of oncoming traffic, our Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in to save our life. Then once the danger is over we move back into PNS dominance, and go about leading calm, balanced, happy and healthy lives.  In this state, our breath is typically deep, regular and rhythmic (think of the way a sleeping baby breaths).

The function of the Sympathetic Nervous System is to help us to save our life when it is being threatened.  It has a very important function, and without it we might not be here today at all. The problem is not that we have a Sympathetic Nervous System, or even that it is activated from time to time.  The problem is that we spend far too much time in this stress response.  The body doesn’t know the difference between an immediate threat to our life and chronic stress from rushing around all day trying to tick off all the items on our long to do list, so for many of us, we spend way too much time each day in a state of stress.

We can’t think our way out of the stress response.

But we can communicate to our whole body that we are safe by breathing diaphragmatically and gently extending the out breath.  Very simply, this involves breathing gently and rhymthically and allowing the belly to move in and out with each breath, and over time making the exhalation longer than the inhalation.  If you’d like to try this practice, let me guide you through it here or sign up to A Daily Dose of Bliss to try this and many other practices like it over the next six weeks.

I was sharing my passion for the breath with my friend and colleague Dr Daniel Jones the other day and he said he believed the best simple practice for health was to eat slowly.

With a little research I discovered that not only is eating slowly good for digestion, weight loss, preventing diabetes and dental health, it is also good for stress.

Rushing when we’re eating signals to the body that we’re danger and activates the SNS. But eating slowly and with pleasure signals to the body that we’re safe, activating the PNS and bringing us to a state of calm and ease.

According to the science of Ayurveda, it’s not a good idea to eat when you’re stressed, so I wouldn’t suggested using eating as a way to calm yourself down when you’re feeling really stressed out. But I would suggest taking Dr Daniel’s advice and eating your meals in a present, aware, leisurely and loving way. Not only to enjoy yourself, but to give your body the felt experience of calm and relaxation at least 3 times a day.

If we remember to slow down when we eat, we’ll not only improve our digestion, which has a whole host of health benefits, but we’ll be sure to reset our nervous system, and spend more and more time in a state of relaxation rather than stress.

Lately I’ve incorporated Dr Daniel‘s advice into my own wellness practice.  While letting go of the habit I’ve developed since having children of eating on-the-go is definitely a work process, I do aim now to put down my cutlery between bites, chew slowly and breathe deeply before taking another mouthful.

It’s the simple things like this that really help us to live well.

Happy (slow) eating,

1 Comment

  1. Lainie Anderson

    Why do we need to be reminded of such simple things that have a BIG impact on us. Too many times I’m guilty of eating on the run and this is a wonderful reminder to take time for ourselves, connect and eat slowly. Who would have thought something so nourishing could be so easy to focus on each and every day. I’m going to give it a red hot go!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ACCESS THE INNER WISDOM LIBRARY

Free meditations, eBooks + more

You have Successfully Subscribed!

LATEST eCOURSE

A Daily Dose of Bliss

NEXT EVENT

Embodied Rest

WANT MORE LIKE THIS IN YOUR INBOX?

Sign up to get the keys to the Inner Wisdom Library (free meditations, eBooks and more)

Simple Rituals for Letting Go

Are you ready to let go of something that is no longer serving you? Ritual can be a  powerful way to do this. I like letting go rituals that are simple. Here are some ideas: Write down what you would like to release (a list, a story, a letter, a poem, a drawing or a...

read more

What Do You Desire?

I’ve been consciously creating a life of meaning and purpose for myself and supporting others on their paths for many years. However it wasn’t until I met Dr Richard Miller and began the journey into iRest Yoga Nidra that I heard the term Heartfelt Desires, and fully...

read more

The Science of Willpower

If you’ve ever tried to let go of an old habit, or create a new one, you’ve no doubt found how challenging it can be.   I’ve previously written about the six steps to changing a habit - they include clarity, noticing, self compassion, acting consciously,...

read more

 

Sign up to stay in touch +
access the Inner Wisdom Library

 free meditations, eBooks + more for wholehearted living

 

Join me

WANT MORE LIKE THIS IN YOUR INBOX?

Access meditations, eBooks and more
in the Inner Wisdom Library.

It's yours.  For free.

Thanks

Start Your Journey

LET'S GET STARTED

Sign up to my growing collection of meditations, eBooks and more
in the Inner Wisdom Library

It's yours. For free.

Thank you