It's incredible really. How just this one little thing that we all have to do anyway can change the entire trajectory of our day. Yep. Just breathe. You might be a skeptic. I was a just breathe skeptic once upon a time, too. I just didn't get it! I thought that people were crazy. I literally breathe all day long and I could stay all stressed out through every single hour without even trying hard. And then...I finally started really listening. It turns out that HOW you breathe matters when you're using breathing as a calm-down strategy. Good news is that it's easy when you know the rules:
- You gotta belly breathe. That means breathing in through your nose from way deep from down in your belly, not up in your chest. You keep your shoulders down and let your belly pouf out as your diaphragm fills and pushes down.
- When you breathe out, do it through your mouth and try to push air out for just a bit longer than you pulled it in.
- Repeat at least three times, or until you can feel your body relax.
Still sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? Well, of course it is! Which is exactly why I never understood how it could work. Or how teaching correct breathing to children could help them to calm their emotions so that they could access their brains for better problem solving. i'd read a LOT of self-meditation articles, but I have SOOOO much trouble settling my brain. When I finally learned how to breathe correctly for self-regulation, I learned how to truly access the ability to calm my body, which helps me to calm my brain. I learned that I could breathe to calm anxiety. I lelarned that I could breathe to relax for quality rest. Even better, I learned that when I was rocking my grandbabies to sleep, as soon as I started taking deep calming belly breathes, they almost immediately calmed and began to slow their fussing as well. Bonus!
Our brains work better when our emotions are regulated. Children's brains are the same, with the additional challenge of navigating frustrations without yet having a fully developed frontal cortex. Ugh! Sometimes my heart actually hurts for them! Resilient kids have strategies, though! Yay! The easiest of all is learning to correctly breathe themselves back into the green zone...or at least into the yellow zone so that they can successfully pick a secondary strategy. I've seen deep breaths work with kids and adults of all ages.
At your house, try adding breathing to your family repertoire for self-regulation. I bet you can find multiple opportunities to change the trajectory of your day!
To further encourage the self-regulation strategies of mindfulness and breathing, necessary for resiliency, you may want to explore some of these books:
- Emotional Agility by Susan David
- Thrive by Arianna Huffington
- Into the Magic Shop by James Doty
To share with your child:
- Compassionate Ninja by Mary Nhin