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Practical relaxation and meditation

I mention relaxation, controlled breathing and body scans throughout my blog. A question was raised about how it all fitws together and here are my thoughts on that

…. however, possibly attending a class in your area would be the best introduction. For the present, meanwhile, consider these experiments.

ATTEND TO YOUR POSTURE

sit upright, look straight ahead,place your hands on knees or upper leg; keep your feet firmly on floor.

THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING

breathe only through your nose, with your mouth closed. Breathe in slowly to the count of around three; in through the nose and out through mouth. Evenly in and out.

USE THE BODY SCAN

slowly allow your attention to travel from the top of your head to the smallest pinkie on your toes. Notice what thoughts, feelings and sensations you observe as your focus moves down your body (it can be up, if you prefer)?

As it helps, note any Subjective Unit of Discomfort (SUD) level (0-10) associated with a particular thought, feeling or sensation.

FOCUS

your attention on a specific thought, feeling or sensation. You may need to make choices as a body scan will produce more than one result. Consider address each choice in an organised way. To help you focus, consider these further experiments:

  • use external objects – fix your eyes on an object above you and to one side.
  • use internal information – ‘just notice’ the disturbance(s) of thought, feeling or sensation from the body scan.

ATTENTION

use your internal dialogue to acknowledge any disturbance of thought, feeling or sensation.

use any other self-talk or diversionary strategies, as you wish. This may include

  • affirmation work. “Even though I am feeling [name the feeling you observe] I can deeply and completely accept myself”.
  • use of your breathing to attend to any unwanted tension in your muscles and body.
  • using the out-breath to let go of the unwanted tension, allowing your body to relax down, little by little, at the same time.

EYES

as your eyes become tired, having ‘played’ with images created around the fixed object, allow your eyes to close in your own time and meditate on any image created within your ‘inner eye’.

THIS PROCESS CAN CONTINUE FOR A FEW MINUTES OR FOR PARTS OF AN HOUR, AS YOU WISH, OR AS TIME ALLOWS.

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Control breathing to keep calm. Is it really that simple?

My blog does emphasis the value of simple breathing exercises to calm ourselves. These exercises work for many people as they focus attention on our physiology – the workings of our bodies – and less on intricate psychological processes. Physiology seems to reach more of us than psychology!

However, thinking about breathing is a simple beginning. I’d ask you to think about controlled breathing – however you do it – as a gateway to many other important safe experiments. Controlled breathing is one step to take in affect regulation (to provide the official title for the process of soothing ourselves). On the subject of affect regulation there is a ton of research you can read, and, by way of a health warning, it is not very digestible. Affect regulation refers to the ability to maintain or increase positive feelings and well-being states and to minimise or regulate stress feelings and defensive states.

The idea of affect regulation is very old as it arises from the earlier, traditional psychological models. A living expert in this field is Allan Schore and he has two books of over 300 pages devoted to the topic. It is an important subject – infants and children have to learn how to control their responses to the world and carers are generally charged with helping that process. Some are more or less capable here. Therapy often exists to support and repair damage done in early years. Unfortunately, rather like the acquisition of language, it is less easy to put things right in later years.

To compound the problem, affect regulation rather depends on a deep understanding of human neuro-science. On this subject, Schore is well worth studying along with Louis Cozolino (The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy). For a more readable introduction to  the topic, have a look at Sebastian Seung’s Connectome.  A useful text that looks wider has Peter Fonagy as a lead writer (Affect Regulation, Mentalisation and the Development of the Self). Just a few glances at one or more of these texts will reinforce the idea that controlled breathing does, indeed, simply scratch the surface of ways to calm ourselves.

…. but you could be forgiven for the passing thought that therapy and therapists have a talent for complicating the picture and created a mystery around the change process. My own blog is less concerned with the under-pinning of affect regulation and more on practical ways in which you can enhance your own skills – on a daily basis.

For an interesting introduction to a brief affect regulation therapy, take a look at:

http://www.affectregulationtherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/About-brief-Affect-Regulation-Therapy.pdf

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How to give yourself a nudge

Welcome to Find Your Nudge