Experiment #34: Try New Breathing Techniques

Here are two breathing techniques I've been using lately. The first one is from Dr. Andrew Weil, it's simple, and it's easy to remember.

Here's Andrew Weil's 4-7-8 breathing method:

That's all you need to remember, actually. Breath for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, then breath out for a count of 8 to, in Weil's words, "reset your involuntary system."

I don't know if that's what's happening when I do the exercise, but I can say that every time I do it, I feel better.

The second technique is from a cult-like figure named Wim Hof.

 Just Google his name and you will learn all about the cult surrounding him.

Just Google his name and you will learn all about the cult surrounding him.

Here's Wim Hof's method, in brief:

  • Take 30 breaths, ballooning your chest.
  • Breathe in as much as you can, expanding your chest.
  • Breathe out completely, drop your chin, and relax until you feel your reflex.
  • Inhale again deeply and hold for 10 – 15 seconds.
  • Repeat.
  • Reserve five minutes at the end to scan your body.

Here it is in a little more detail, if needed. 

  1. Get comfortable with legs crossed and prepare to warm up.
  2. Inhale deeply until you feel some pressure in your chest. Hold your breath, then exhale, pushing out all of your air. Hold for 2 – 3 seconds.
  3. Repeat warm-up 15 times.
  4. Once you're warmed up, pretend to blow up a balloon by inhaling through your nose, exhaling through your mouth in short, powerful bursts with a steady pace. Repeat 30 times. If you get lightheaded, that's OK. 
  5. During your big breaths, focus on each part of your body. If you sense something that doesn’t feel quite right, release that part of the body.
  6. After you’ve completed your 30 power breaths, inhale deeply and fill your lungs to capacity, then force the air out. Drop your chin and relax. Hold your breath out until you experience the gasp reflex. Then inhale normally.
  7. Inhale again deeply. Release any tension in your chest and hold that breath in. Drop your chin to your chest and hold for 15 seconds. Scan your body again for anything that feels “off.” 
  8. Relax and scan your body.

I've been using the 4-7-8 breath at small random times, like on the subway or in a meeting. I use the Wim Hof method when I need a deeper "intervention" -- like if I'm overthinking something at bedtime or in the middle of the night. Give both a try. I would love to hear how it goes for you

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Experiment #32: Meditate in a Big Group While Listening to Gongs

grace cathedral meditation

Last week, I attended my first big group sound meditation event at famous Grace Cathedral here in San Francisco. Here's an excerpt from the official description of the event:

On October 23rd, 1300 of us will come together to resonate with peace and tranquility at the beautiful Grace Cathedral. This experience not only brings you to your deepest meditative state, but also ushers us closer as a community.

Led by Guy Douglas and featuring an array of amazing and talented musicians on gongs, crystal singing bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, Native American flutes, Didgeridoo, Celtic Harp, Monochord, Vibraphone and so much more. 

Despite feeling weird about it, I Facebook Live'd the event so that others could see what it was like. Also, I wanted to force myself to do something that scared me. As a result, I have this video from the event itself: 

Here are my thoughts on big group sound meditation as an experiment in dealing with stress and anxiety:

  • It was exciting to try something new and the setting was beautiful.

  • The floor was HARD. I had to shift around a bunch to try to get comfortable.

  • I wanted to feel more vibrations. Like in the pit of my stomach. I don't know if it's because of where we were sitting, but I didn't feel those.

  • The best part was when there was a human voice in the mix.

  • It was somewhat relaxing. I was also a bit hopped up from the excitement of the experience. 

  • I would try it again. I bet different settings vary greatly.

I see that there is another big group sound meditation event happening in a few weeks at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.

sound meditation anxiety

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Experiment #30: Watch Slow TV

Let extremely chill Norwegian vibes cover you in relaxation.

 National Firewood Evening. Enough said.

National Firewood Evening. Enough said.

My friend Carl (sharer of great ideas in How to Deal with an Anxious Partner) told me that he found himself watching a two-hour train ride to Oslo on Netflix.

"Oh yeah?" I said. "What happened?"

"Literally nothing," he said. "And it was great."

slow tv netflix

Carl had discovered Norwegian Broadcasting Company’s “Slow TV,” which has been running on Netflix since last August. In the words of the Daily Beast's Daniel Bukszpan:

If you’re wondering what happens on these shows, the answer is simple—nothing. Nothing happens on any of these shows at all, unless you consider the two-minute firewood-stacking explainer preceding the six hours of crackling log action to be “something.”
 Train Ride Bergen to Oslo

Train Ride Bergen to Oslo

I loved what Carl said about watching this ride, 

It's almost like you readjust your watching behavior, such that when the train comes through a tunnel and you see a new incredible panorama, it is genuinely exciting. You just get lulled into it.

If your nervous system is running ragged, this experiment could be just the thing for you. It seems like an amazing thing to have on in the background when you're working on something else. I wonder if I could scratch out the time to go through my personal household filing while watching the Norwegian National Knitting Night? Sounds like a winner to me.

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Experiment #29: Snowglobe Away Your Thoughts

 Some of the great things that spilled out of the envelope when I first opened it.

Some of the great things that spilled out of the envelope when I first opened it.

 Rainbow monocle.

Rainbow monocle.

Last week I received a mysterious package in the mail. In it were many fun anx-positive crafty treats including fake tattoos, scratch and sniff stickers, and a monocle that made everything look rainbow when you looked through it. 

I later found out that my friend Michelle had sent me the care package from The Heart and Hands Store on Etsy. Artist Janelle Silver creates adorable, positive messages to make people feel good. It's a nice gift idea for the right person.

One of Janelle's ideas struck me as a particularly good experiment:

anxiety support

Write down something you need to let go on a piece of paper. Then, in Janelle's words, "Get a bowl full of water and add coloring or glitter...make it a celebration. Record it on your phone if you want to watch it again later. "

Next you just cut the paper into tiny pieces and "snowglobe" them away.

 Ta-da!

Ta-da!

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Experiment #26: Bring Color Into Your Life

Last week, we saw housepainters priming the house out our back window. We were filled with curiosity (especially me, a curious cat for neighborhood haps). What color would they go with? Would it be "startup grey", the most common color of the San Francisco neighborhood where we live? 

 Aha! A sparkling, snappy blue!

Aha! A sparkling, snappy blue!

From early morning tea to evening dinner, getting to look out the window at the new bright blue house has genuinely brightened our lives. It seems so simple, but makes a difference in our lives. Just a color change! 

Here's another example. Check out this house. It's just a short walk from where we live:

 I can't love it more.

I can't love it more.

There's something about the brightness that suggest strength, optimism and positivity. 

We may not all be ready to paint our houses ala Caribbean dream (though I wish we would), but bringing color into your daily life -- in the form of painting a room, or just painting a piece of furniture -- can melt a little stress and help pump up the good vibes. Finding and enjoying those positive feelings is what helps us ride the wave

 A truly incredible row of houses in the Dominican Republic.

A truly incredible row of houses in the Dominican Republic.

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Experiment #22: Change Your Body Temperature

 Henri Matisse, Seated Woman, Back Turned to the Open Window, 1922.

Henri Matisse, Seated Woman, Back Turned to the Open Window, 1922.

I've found that when I'm stuck in cyclical thinking, or just feeling stuck changing my body temperature actually makes a difference. A hot bath is one way to go, but lately I've been finding a cool breeze is often what I need most.

Try removing a layer of clothing or opening a window when you're stuck in your thoughts. It’s simple, but it actually helps bring you back into the moment. The goal is getting grounded. Changing your body temperature helps.

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Experiment #20: Say 100 Things You Are Grateful For

This comes from the ancient Jewish practice of Mussar, the study of character-building. I first learned about Mussar from Tiffany Schlain (Webby Award founder) when I saw a film she created as part of a 2014 project she entitled Character Day.

The Making of a Mensch from The Moxie Institute. The 100 Blessings concept starts at 4:53.

The idea is very simple. From the film's transcript:

For example, say you want to increase your sense of gratitude, which there's so much research today saying that if you feel more grateful you're gonna be healthier you're gonna have more mental strength and you're gonna sleep better.
There's a practice on gratitude based on the Jewish tradition of a hundred blessings a day. My good friend Armas first taught me about it. Every day you say say a hundred blessings. Everything from waking up first thing in the morning to the big moments to the little moments. Even when you go to the bathroom (that's the Jewish way).
100 blessings every day. Do I say them? I try.
At the end of the day as you're going to sleep instead of looking at your screen close your eyes and think about all those moments all those things are grateful for.
 I love the image they chose to represent the imagining of the Day's gratitudes at sleep.

I love the image they chose to represent the imagining of the Day's gratitudes at sleep.

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Experiment #19: Mix A Nature Soundtrack

 Shack rain, calm fire, and beach rushing water, though unlikely, could be your actual soundtrack.

Shack rain, calm fire, and beach rushing water, though unlikely, could be your actual soundtrack.

I like Moodil because you can wait for the bad weather in your head to pass by creating your own mood-perfect nature soundtrack.

I tend to like the meadow nighttime sounds (as shown by the moon and stars) along with a calm fire and thunderstorm. But who cares what I like? Experiment your way into a relaxed background while cooking, working, or falling asleep.

I use the desktop version but Moodil is an app, so it's meant to be used on phones.

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Experiment #17: Spritz!

 Everyone loves a spritz.

Everyone loves a spritz.

About a year ago, a friend gave me a fancy makeup gift that included this great "mist" that prepares fancy people's skin for fancy makeup. Since I am neither fancy nor a makeup person (unless forced, like a little boy in a Sunday suit), I ended using the mist more than everything else. I realized the cooling feeling of water on my skin along with the gentle smells would distract and change my thinking. It's almost like a mental Pavlovian trick. You don't need to buy this mist to get it to work. I bet even rosewater in a little spray bottle would work. 

 This is where you can find  mine , but others work just as well, I'm sure.

This is where you can find mine, but others work just as well, I'm sure.

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