Day 6 | How Successful People Stay Calm

Hi there, Welcome to your daily meditation!  Today we’re shifting our focus from the body to the breath as a way to manage our physiology and energy.

As noted the other day, stress wreaks havoc on our physical and mental health. For example, a Yale study that showed that prolonged stress degenerates the area of the brain responsible for self control and shrinks the brain.  

However, stress -- and the anxiety that comes with it -- is an absolutely necessary emotion.  Our brains are wired to only take action once we feel some level of stress.  And our performance peaks when we experience moderate levels of stress.  Intermittent stress also stimulates creation of new brain cells.  As long as stress is intermittent and not chronic, it’s harmless.  

How do you modulate stress?

The fastest acting and most time tested technique is breathing. When we’re stressed, our breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system.  It’s part of the “fight or flight” response activated by stress.  

By contrast, slow, deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system’s “rest and digest” response, and calms us down.  Consciously breathing in this way manipulates your nervous system, and has immediate effects like altering the pH of your blood and decreasing blood pressure.

More importantly, breathing can be used as a method to train the body’s reaction to stressful situations, and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones.  Harvard researcher Herbert Benson has discovered that short periods of meditation — using breathing as a focus — not only alters the stress response, but also changes which genes in our chromosomes are expressed!  By changing your breath, you’re able to alter the basic activity of your cells to change how your body responds to stress over the long term.   Breathing is a powerful way to influence our experience with stress, and our capacity to change.  

This is the goal of meditation: to influence our capacity to change, and grow in a way that keeps us at our peak performance.  


And don't forget to celebrate taking time to invest in yourself!