Over recent decades, countless studies have shown how beneficial mindfulness meditation can be. It changes our brain, makes us feel better and improves our lives.
But what should you do if it’s not working for you? What if you feel stressed or anxious when you practice meditation? That’s not an experience of Zen.
There’s good news if mindfulness meditation isn’t working for you. There are other ways for you to practice mindfulness.
The alternative method to mindfulness meditation that you’ve never heard of
If you’re unable to do meditation, Dr. Emma M Seppala suggests you do breathing exercises instead.
After working with veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan with heavy trauma, she has found yoga based breathing exercises can be incredibly helpful for those who can’t be inactive for too long.
This is because it’s a more active form of meditation as it requires you to actually do something. It also leads to quick results as breathing can slow down your heart rate.
In her study, she suggests that PTSD scores normalized within a week of practicing yogic breathing.
Why does breathing help?
Breath helps you tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest and digest part of your nervous system, the opposite of the flight or fight.
Research shows that when you breathe in, your heart rate speeds up and when you breathe out it slows down. If you want to relax quickly, you can lengthen your exhales. You can do this anywhere, anytime.
How do you practice breathing exercises?
If you want to practice a more formal breathing meditation every day, Helpful Guide have laid out a step by step guide. Here it is:
1. Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
2. Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
3. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
4. Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
Here is a TedX video of Emma Seppala explaining the science behind why breathing exercises work: