DAY 5: PBR-Pause. Breathe. Repeat

Between stimulus and response there is always a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom
— Victor Frankl
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Day 5 self reflection:

On Day 5 in your workbook, mark times in your day when you would feel comfortable taking a long deep breath. Circle all that apply and try them throughout your day.


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Day 5 Micro-Science: Vagus Nerve

The Vagus Nerve

In each one of our nervous systems there is a very important nerve called the vagus nerve, which acts as a liaison between the gas pedal (sympathetic nervous system) and the brake pedal (parasympathetic nervous system) in our bodies. The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerves in our body and is critical in helping the body calm itself down. There are multiple ways to activate this nerve naturally, but the easiest way is through our breath. 80% the vagus nerve is afferent, meaning it communicates mostly from the body to the brain. This means that in times of stress the easiest way to calm our minds down is to calm our bodies down first. So often we try to talk ourselves of the ledge mentally, but with only 20% of the vagus nerve talking to the body this is somewhat of a useless task. It turns out that if we turn our attention to calming our body down first, the brain will quickly follow.

  • FACT: When you speak your vocal cords activate the vagus nerve

  • TAKEAWAY: Talking about your problems with another person, doesn’t always directly solve the issue, but it does calm you down by activating your “rest and digest” system. Then with a calm mind your problem solving abilities improve.

Day 5 Meditation: Breath Work

You have probably been told since you were a wee little person that breathing helps calm you down. However, remembering to do it when you are all worked up, doesn’t always go that well. Or maybe you tried it once in the heat of the moment and it didn’t do the trick. Well, to be honest, nothing usually works fully the first time you try it. The brain, especially when it is in full freak out mode, doesn’t care about small stimuli and will quickly disregard it. The brain does care about stimuli that seems to stick around and will eventually start to pay attention to that snarky breath if you keep it up long enough. So to truly have your breath help you get out in a jam, you have to practice and keep practicing. So when the moment of struggle occurs your brain just goes into automatic pilot and does what it always does when things gets tough, starts “breathing.”

  • FACT: When you breathe “in” you activate the sympathetic nervous system (gas pedal). Only when you breathe “out” is the parasympathetic nervous system(brake pedal) engaged.

  • TAKEAWAY: They seldom teach this, but the out breathe should be held longer than the in breath if your intention is to try and calm down.

Day 5 Meditation: Set a timer for three minutes, then follow the shape (to the right) as it gets larger and smaller with your breathe. As it gets larger breath in, as it gets smaller breathe out.

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Make Every Breath Count
— Anonymous

Day 5 Movement Task: ReMindful Art

We tend on average to breath about 20,000 times per day but many of those are not conscious (intentional) breathes. The more we “choose” to breath the more relaxed our brains becomes. It is often said that if you “steady the breath. you steady the mind.” However, since we are so busy in our hectic lives we forget to those deep breathes that help us to make better decisions. So the best gift you can give your body is to put little reminders up around your house or work place that remind you to take a moment and “just breath.”

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  • FACT: You have 500 million avaloi (which connect your lungs to your bloodstream) in your body, most of them at the base of your lungs. This is also the spot were 30% of the carbon monoxide (poison) in your body gets pooled and causes disease.

  • TAKEAWAY: Most of us take shallow chest breathes, but that is the way less effective then taking a good belly breath. Chest breaths have to pick up our rib cage and therefore make for crappy use of your diaphragm. So next time you take a deep breath, get down to the base of your lungs towards your belly because that is where all the important stuff happens.

Day 5 Movement Task: Put a sticky note or tape a piece a paper to one spot you go past every morning with the word “breathe” on it. It could be in on your bathroom mirror, close to the handle of your fridge, or next to your bed. Now every time you see that word it will be hard to not do as it commands.


Day 5 Bonus Material:

#1) Ted Talk: Breath

Check out this Ted Talk about the power of the breath and its ability to transform your life. The breath is often forgotten about in our quest to calm down, but it is surely the bodies most powerful tool to keeping it cool.

#2) Cosmic Orgasm-The Rise of Conscious Breathing: The Guardian

Check out this article by The Guardian about how super important it is to breathe intentionally and take back control of your nervous system.