Life can be hectic. We live in a fast-paced society with so much information coming at us from all directions. The human brain is not designed to compute as much information as it does. We have advertisements, radios, and televisions. We have smartphones. We have social media feeds constantly switching our attention. Each time we read someone’s post, we are switching to our mental schema for this person. Is it our close friend? Is it a loved one? Why did they post that? What did they really mean? In a matter of seconds, we are on to the next post. It is no wonder that an anxiety disorder is one of the most common mood disorders to be diagnosed in the western world. We are constantly anticipating the next stimulus, anticipating the phone to ding, buzz, or ring. If we are thinking of our mind as a computer, overworked and processing more information than it was originally designed to, then we can safely say that it is vital that we are regularly “clearing our RAM”. We need to take time to reset often, or else, the system may overload.
So, how do we reset our mental “RAM”, so to speak. A computer’s RAM is its working memory. The human brain has a working memory too, which means all these thoughts, judgments, and ideas that come up while we are trying to sort through the barrage of information are swirling around in our minds and are compiling. Our most valuable tool to reset is our breath. All it can take is three deep intentional breaths.
Breathing is what grounds us and what connects us to our body in this human experience. Without it, we would only have our mind and our consciousness. Because our mind is often processing too much information, we must slow ourselves down with the breath.
I have had a reminder set on my phone for almost 2 years. It goes off twice a day. It says “3 breaths”. When I see it, I stop whatever I am doing, and I take three deep intentional breaths. If possible, I close my eyes. I focus my mind by saying, “I am breathing in. I am breathing out.” The clarity I experience afterwards is astonishing. I am able to come from a busy, overactive monkey mind to a calm, relaxed state in only three breaths. This tool that psychotherapists teach is a practice firmly rooted in yoga’s pranayama. Pranayama is using the breath to control the life force (prana). When all of our prana is directed towards the busy mind, our body suffers. We hold tension, our organs do not function as they should, and our breathing becomes shallow. The best way to use the three-breath system is to ensure you are taking a moment to use them when you notice yourself becoming overwhelmed with thoughts or observing tension beginning in the body. It is best used as a preventative tool but can also be used as a reactive treatment for heightened anxiety and tension.
Many people say they don’t have time to meditate. This is meditation. Allow yourself to take three deep intentional breaths, and I predict you’ll want to make even more time to meditate!