Giving up ‘Busy’ for a Happier Life
You’re busy, you’re getting things done, you’re multitasking and boy are you good at it.
But just how far is all this constant thought and busyness of body and mind getting you? Mindfulness experts believe that instead of driving forward, which is where we think we’re going, we are, in fact, moving further and further away from peace and contentedness. As moms, getting caught up in a cycle of ‘doing’ is leaving us stressed, burned out, depressed and wrung out on anxiety. More than that, our concentration levels are reducing all the time, meaning that the precious time you spend with your kids, while keeping one eye on Facebook, is having a detrimental effect on everyone.
“Research published by Microsoft has found that the average attention span in the Western world has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2013. Even the goldfish, which is noted to have a poor attention span, can hold their focus for nine seconds,” says author Patrick McKeown in his book, ‘The Oxygen Advantage’. In addition to being constantly distracted, the type of thoughts we’re often distracted by are negative and self critical thoughts, so anxiety is increasing while happiness decreases, suggests Patrick.
“A skittering mind, jumping from thought to thought, is a leech to productivity, creative endeavor and quality of life. Having a focused mind is probably the greatest asset in every walk of life, whatever your occupation or lifestyle.” Having experienced first hand the detrimental effects of a busy mind on the body and mind, and in turn quality of life, Patrick trained as a Buteyko practitioner, a breathing technique that is used to treat stress and anxiety, in addition to respiratory disorders.
“All throughout my time at school, college and my early years of work, my mind was extremely active. I believed that thinking was a positive thing but had no way of differentiating practical thoughts from repetitive, unnecessary, or negative ways of thinking. Most of the time I lived stuck in my head, on automatic pilot, without realising just how constantly thoughts were streaming through my mind. Having such an active mind diminished my concentration. To get through university I continued my long hours studying, experiencing stress, fatigue, and severe respiratory problems in the process, completely unaware that my mind was working against me.
” According to Patrick, researchers from leading medical schools including Harvard have discovered that following the breath over a period of six to eight weeks causes structural changes to the brain. “Known as neuroplasticity, we can literally change our own brains by taking attention from the mind onto our breath to harness the benefits of improved concentration and reduced stress. This is great news for anyone with depression, anxiety and stress. There is a way to breathe that helps not only to quieten the mind, but also delivers more oxygen to the brain.” he says. Oftentimes, we’re stressed without knowing it, and exacerbating itaqqa without knowing it through our breathing.
So what’s the best way to breathe in order to reduce stress? Despite what most people think, Patrick says that taking big breaths of fresh air into the lungs only increases stress. Instead, he says that as stress increasing our breathing, we should be slowing it down. Stress also makes us take sighs, so we should be trying to regulate our breathing. It makes us breathe more noticeably so breathing silently counteracts that. Also, stress often makes us breathe through the mouth, and so we should breathe through the nose, he suggests. The following Buteyko exercise, which Patrick suggests you repeat throughout the day, helps slow down breathing and so helps to calm an active mind.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your navel.
- Now, tune into your breath - take attention out of the mind.
- Tune in and you will begin to feel the air in different parts of the body.
- You may feel it coming in and out of the nose, you may feel it at the back of your throat, you may feel your chest rising and falling, or you may feel your tummy moving in or out.
- Turn your attention on to the breath and with your hands against your chest and tummy, place a little bit of resistance against your breathing.
- Take a shorter breath in and allow a relaxed breath out.
Throughout your daily life, spend five minutes three or four times a day gently softening your breathing,” recommends Patrick. “This exercise is instrumental in calming an active mind. Holding your attention on the breath helps to tame the mind and quieten it. In addition, because you are slowing the breath, you activate the body's relaxation response.” Slowing down your mind will not only improve your concentration and productivity, it will result in a calmer, more centred, happier you.
The following relaxation MP3 by Patrick can be downloaded free of charge from www.ButeykoClinic.com/123.php
Director of Training and Education for Buteyko Clinic International, Patrick McKeown is the author of eight books using the Buteyko Method. He is the practitioner for clinics in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. His latest book, The Oxygen Advantage, is available now.