“Take a deep breathe” is much more than just a cheesy saying.
If one thing is absolutely clear about the health issues in America it is this: mental issues are basically all on the rise. People are becoming more depressed or just claiming to not be happy; people are reporting feeling alone and unable to connect with society. There is even a relatively new phenomenon where people are extremely anxious and stressed so much that they literally don’t even know it!
Depression is also on the rise along with attention problems like ADD and ADHD (which in my mind are false diagnoses and simply symptoms of other problems that are treatable naturally).
Part of the reason for this is that more and more normal behaviors are being diagnosed as issues so people begin to attach a label to themselves that makes them feel like a victim. I’ve seen this especially in kids who will commonly say they “have behavior problems” and so feel akward and ostracized. We even have oppositional defiance disorder which really shows a scraping of the bottom of the proverbial barrel in terms of diagnoses.
Obviously social media is increasing these issues as people watch the glorified lives of people they will never meet. I know what’s this like myself, as I have been angered by how other people are so successful on platforms like instagram for posting basically irrelevant and useless content (mainly scantily clad women with selfie sticks).
So here seems to be the basis for what we’re seeing here:
- People are feeling less connected with society in the “real world”
- They feel like they are falling behind in the face of the social media stars.
- They are feeling depressed with the news constantly fear mongering them in a sensationalized media cycle presented at seemingly every building and location in the country
- They are being bombarded with so much energy that their thoughts begin to feel cluttered and aimless, and people’s minds are “always racing”
- They are being medicated with drugs with dangerous side effects that by definition will not fix the underlying problems
- They are rarely taught stress reduction techniques that can be applied immediately and at any place
So, how do we fix it? How are some people able to deal with the stress so much better than others while many fall into pits of endless despair?
In my opinion, its about four factors, one of which can be applied absolutely anywhere. They are in order of importance breathing, stress reducing exercises and activities, nutrition, and an ability to control your own mind instead of having it control you.
Why do I put breathing as the most important? Well, simple. You really need three things to survive (simplistically). People can survive for an exceedingly long time without food, months even. They can’t go very long without water, maybe a week or two tops. But try holding your breathe for ten minutes. Unless you have the Guiness World Record for breathe holding, you will be dead (of course you’d pass out and start breathing again, but you see the point).
I have noticed over the years that the most stressed people I meet in real life share some common traits and one is that they have very shallow breathing, almost imperceptible at times. Just think of how you react when there is a highly stressful situation. You’re nervous, your breath becomes rapid and short…sometimes people hyperventilate.
Most people breath improperly through their chests. You can see this because the chest moves in and out when breathing…this is not optimal. The most effective breathing involves filling the stomach area with breathe, called belly-breathing. This not only stretches out the breathing muscles and lungs but provides a more “full” feeling which allows more oxygen to be extracted, and for more carbon dioxide to be expelled. This is the type of breathing one would do in meditation and shortly I will explain why the two go hand in hand.
Deep breathing is a relaxation technique, physically and mentally. Not only does it suppress the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight) but it helps activate the parasympathetic system, which conserves energy and sends them to vital organs to help the body heal and repair. One simple idea is that society is perpetually stuck in the sympathetic system meaning that we are — you guessed it — constantly percieving a threat and we don’t know why and that’s why we’re so stressed!
There are many different breathing techniques but I think the first key for super stressed people is to identify when they are so stressed, identify it and then immediately bring their attention to their breathe. I assure most people will find that when those super stressful and negative even hateful and resentful thoughts (like seeing that super performer on IG and getting jealous) they are either shallow breathing or even not breathing at all. And what happens when you hold your breathe continually? You get anxious. Its like that subtle terrifying feeling when we try and hold our breathe too long.
So one question is how are our thoughts so tied to our breathing? Because thoughts are things that’s why. And thoughts create emotions. If you’re thinking acutely about that a-hole that cut you off on the way to work and mentally picturing yourself flipping him off, you’re going to create an emotion of fear and anger, and your body will react to that thought, quite literally saying “Hey, what’s up? Why are you angry! Who dun it? Where is he!” like an agitated Pitbull.
People I know that are highly stressed out tend to lash out emotionally very quickly with a hair-trigger temper. Myself included. Sometimes, it just overwhelms you. Its understandable. But we also have to understand that when that happens our body and mind are going react accordingly and appropriately by creating a stress / fear / fight / flight response.
And unfortunately there is more to this problem, because most people are obviously not in control of their thoughts. I can see it in their actions. The subconscious programming from years of schooling and memorizing useless information in school, being told they have behavioral problems and mindlessly scrolling social media. Psychologists have postulated that people are in the subconscious mind 95% of the time which leaves only 5% for conscious thought. These are programs. This is what the whole idea for The Health Matrix is all about. The Matrix is your subconscious mind, and mine, and every living creature on the planet. Cutting through the Matrix and unplugging is simply using as much conscious thought and that is exactly what meditation is about.
Meditation is the key
I am not someone that meditates every day. I used to, and I strive to, but I’m not perfect. But I assure anyone out there that if you even perform one successful meditation and reach the state of true awareness then it can have a life changing impact on your life. Let me give you an example:
About 6 years ago I was sitting in my apartment, watching youtube videos on spirituality. I was completely absorbed. That was my awakening moment. You know, that buzzword that so many people use these days? Being “awake”? What does it mean?
Anyway, I was listening to Eckhardt Tolle talk about how you can’t just watch videos and learn about this information, but you actually have to do it to see effects. And, like most people would respond, my brain immediately went “but I don’t wann” it was so much easier to watch a video and let someone else explain to me what I figured I would just explain to other people without actually doing it. Because our subconscious minds are crafty. The ego is crafty, its the devil on the shoulder saying “aww you don’t need to do that, just grab yourself a cold one and enjoy the videos before work! You can try it tomorrow instead!” Except this time I said nope. We’re doing this, right here right now, for a whopping five straight minutes. It ended up being twenty minutes and I reached a level of meditation (how many levels there are I couldn’t begin to conceive, possibly unknowable).
So, like a Tibetan wannabe, I shut the blinds (it was the middle of the day), grabbed a cushion, through it on the floor, lit a candle and placed it about three feet in front of me so that the only light in the room was the candle. My intent was to focus on that candle flame because, well I didn’t know what else the hell to do. I’d never done it before. Five minutes in and I was flabbergasted. I could not hold my attention that flame for more than fifteen seconds. My mind would wander to the most irrelevant and frankly ficticious thought streams. One second I was thinking about a cute girl, then imagining taking her out, how would that be? Maybe we can hook up after, wow! What would that be like!”
Then I realized. Shit. I’m supposed to focus on the flame. Back to it again. All the time just breathing deeply and relaxingly; naturally. And over and over again I would drift. Money. My messy apartment. Family issues. Greivances. It just never ended! Eventually after about ten minutes I reached a state of observing my thoughts. I was not trying to control them or judge them in anyway. Images of problems and issues in my life scrolled by like a slideshow. I would just watch it or possibly feel the emotion, then naturally that thought would drift away…this went on for another ten minutes then my ego said enough was enough and I opened my eyes and moved on with my day.
But one thing was clear: I was not, in any way shape or form, in control of my own thoughts. I witnessed that first hand. And that idea of observing and thinking about my own thoughts continued on from that day. I often lose it and return to the subconscious stage, but I was strengthening that muscle slowly over time, and strange things started happening. For one thing I was so much more calm, instead of reacting to situations I would witness them, observe my thoughts, and more often than not I would consciously make a decision of what to do.
And anytime to this day that I feel that I’m losing my shit, literally, the time span becomes shorter and shorter before I say “stop” and then my mantra is now “Back to the breath”. I will literally say that to myself and take deep breaths.
Over time concentration improves and other meditations can be done, and there are countless ways to do this but I don’t think most people don’t meditate because they simply don’t understand what it really is. I’ve asked clients why they are so staunchly opposed and they may say “because I don’t want to sit there and not think anything”. That is not what it is about at all. Not in the slightest. That would be hypnosis. Meditation is something that can be integrated throughout the day and sometimes you can reach the state of awareness in unexpected places. I don’t lash out when traffic is bad. I’m not rushing all over the place stressed out. Sure, things need to get done, but there is really no need at all to be stressed out all the time.
And that is what meditation is about. Try it for yourself and see if you are controlling your thoughts or if your subconscious programs are running you most of the time. And it takes practice. No free lunch. The awareness takes practice.
I used to say that snowboarding was my meditation. I didn’t meditate at the time I just said that because it was the closest word I thought would fit the feeling, of speeding down the mountain, making s-curves and just enjoying nature. Many people say the same thing about running, hiking, cycling, whatever. Because they involve a relaxed awareness and you aren’t bothered by other distractions along the way. And many people are still sedentary and not exercising. That’s a problem.
It doesn’t need to be extravagent, like weight lifting or sprinting or hiking a five mile mountain. It can be just walking barefoot through the woods, relaxingly, enjoying nature.
But many people’s “relaxational” activities aren’t just not producing the desired effect but in fact fostering the exact opposite…more stress. Like sitting in front of the t.v. Sure, we can enjoy a movie or our favorite show but many people are still watching four hours of t.v. per day. Or staring at other screens. And there’s a specific problem with that due to the brainwave patterns that they produce. Alpha brainwaves are produced by the consistent blue screens. And alpha waves are quite literally the opposite of meditation, which create theta waves. Quite literally, those “television programs” are programming a huge swath of people and they don’t know it. It fosters the subconsious mind which is the subliminally programmable mind, you know, like those subliminal messages we heard about years ago?
Interactive activites use a mixture of brainwaves, but sitting in front of programming is the worst and instead of training your brain to be more conscious you instead train it to be subconscious whether you know it or not. Most people I think would tend to think that they are too smart for programing. Its not going to get me! That’s exactly who the creators of advertisements love to target. The truly naive ones that can’t admit that may not be in control of their thoughts. And unfortunately this is I think the majority of people.
The first step to stopping the programming is to admit that you may have been programmed in a certain way and that is ok, that is called mind expansion and I personally had to go through a hell of a lot of it over the past ten years. Reading books and a variety of sources helps a lot. But also unfortunately many people still frown down on those “weird people” that choose to read the lesser known works, or watch the lesser known documentaries that the television talking head programmers attempt to warn us against.
Remember, those are conspiracy theorists and you don’t want to end up alienated from the heard do you? In my opinion people are very easy to control.
But the main point for people to get out of this is this sort of thought cycle:
What you think determines how you feel emotionally. Apparently, 95% of the time most of us all are operating on programs that were installed from a variety of sources, some good some bad. Paying attention to breathing and practicing a sort of meditation can bring you into a conscious state, which can then be strengthened over time to create a conscious being who is in control of their emotions by consciously observing and deciphering, and ultimately controlling their own thoughts, which leads to a calmer attitude which will help with stress, anxiety, depression, sleep, and health in general.
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