On a typical day, a 90-something Georgia native used to stroll to the town’s pub where he’d consume his usual meal of steak and potato, followed by no less than three whiskeys. Ambling back home, he’d smoke a cigar or cigarette, whichever he had handy.
After decades of consuming gobs of red meat, carbs galore, endless whiskeys and countless smokes, he was eventually asked the secret to his longevity. “I don’t worry about anything,” he said. “Never have.”
We, as a society, can learn a lot from this Southern sage. Worry creates stress. Long-standing stress in our lives can lead to many physical imbalances and even disease.
How can we abstain from such a health-deteriorating habit such as worry?
One of the answers might be as close as your next breath. To breathe is to live. We can live about three to seven minutes without it. Practicing deep breathing techniques might or might not be what our elderly Georgian did to not worry, but we can begin to practice allowing our breath to lengthen and deepen to positively benefit our physical, mental and emotional states.
When we deeply inhale and exhale for a period of time, all of our cells become increasingly oxygenated, saturating them with life-sustaining energy.
Deep breathing releases feel-good endorphins, exchanging worry for calm, replacing fear with peace and trading anger for ease. Deep breathing is free and you can practice it anywhere without anyone being the wiser.
Standing in a long line at the grocery store, feeling your ire rise? As you begin to breathe deeply, you’ll more easily release the building impatience.
Here’s a simple exercise to fold into your day as needed: Focus your mind on your lower belly, intending to breathe from here rather than your upper chest.
Inhale through your nose for a slow count of four, hold your breath for another four counts, and then exhale for a relaxed count of four.
Allow your stomach to inflate upon inhale and deflate while exhaling. Repeat at least three times – more is better. As you breathe deeply, include an inspiring phrase such as, “I am relaxed” or “I am at peace.”
You will soon find yourself feeling ever-increasing amounts of relaxation in your mind and body.
Allow the words of the Victorian era poetess, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, to take you into 2016 and have it be your best New Year ever: “He lives most life whoever breathes most air.”
Regina Cannella writes about various health issues from her home in Charleston. This article is provided in collaboration with Health Smart in Bluffton. gina@health smartsc.com