DIAPHRAGM BREATHING is a technique that helps you slow down and deepen your breathing when you are feeling stressed or anxious. Newborn babies naturally breathe this way, and singers, wind instrument players, and yoga practitioners use this type of breathing.
Why is diaphragm breathing important?
♦ Our breathing changes when we are feeling anxious or stressed. We tend to take short, quick, shallow breaths, or even hyperventilate. This type of breathing can actually make you feel even more anxious (e.g., due to a racing heart, dizziness, or headaches)!
♦ Diaphragm breathing is a great portable tool that you can use whenever you are feeling anxious. However, it does require some practice. Key point: like other anxiety-management skills, the purpose is not to avoid anxiety at all costs, but just to take the edge off or help you “ride out” the feelings.
HOW TO DO IT
Diaphragm breathing involves taking smooth, slow, and regular breaths.
1. Take a slow breath in through the nose (and mouth if you have to), breathing into your lower abdomen, feeling your ribcage expand in all directions.
2. Once you get a full breath, hold it gently for 1 or 2 seconds.
3. Exhale slowly and completely through the mouth, making sure to empty your lungs completely before taking in your next breath.
♦ Make sure that you aren’t hyperventilating; pause for a few seconds after each breath if you start to feel light-headed
♦ Focus on relaxing the muscles in your neck/throat and pulling the air in from your solar plexus (sternum) area
♦ Relax your chest, drop your shoulders, and let your belly soften like the Buddha
♦ Sometimes it helps to imagine a hand pushing on the middle of your back and you are pushing against it with breath (to help expand and fill the back of the lungs)
♦ Your shoulders and chest area should be fairly relaxed and still. If this is challenging at first, try lying down on the floor with one hand on your chest, and the other hand on your abdomen. Focus on making the hand on your abdomen rise as you fill your lungs with air, expanding your chest (the hand over your chest should not move as much)
♦ Practice this technique once or twice a day at first - you need to be comfortable breathing this way when feeling calm, before you can feel comfortable doing it when anxious.
You will gradually master this skill and feel the benefits! Once you are comfortable with this technique, you can start using it in situations that cause anxiety.
James W Pennebaker
Professor — Ph.D., University of Texas at AustinExecutive Director of Project 2021, Regents Centennial Professor
Writing and Health: Some Practical Advice
Writing about emotional upheavals in our lives can improve physical and mental health. Although the scientific research surrounding the value of expressive writing is still in the early phases, there are some approaches to writing that have been found to be helpful. Keep in mind that there are probably a thousand ways to write that may be beneficial to you. Think of these as rough guidelines rather than Truth. Indeed, in your own writing, experiment on your own and see what works best.
Getting Ready to Write:
Find a time and place where you won’t be disturbed. Ideally, pick a time at the end of your workday or before you go to bed.
Promise yourself that you will write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for at least 3 or 4 consecutive days.
Once you begin writing, write continuously. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. If you run out of things to write about, just repeat what you have already written.
You can write longhand or you can type on a computer. If you are unable to write, you can also talk into a tape recorder.
You can write about the same thing on all 3-4 days of writing or you can write about something different each day. It is entirely up to you.
What to Write About:
Something that you are thinking or worrying about too much
Something that you are dreaming about
Something that you feel is affecting your life in an unhealthy way
Something that you have been avoiding for days, weeks, or years
In our research, we generally give people the following instructions for writing:
Over the next four days, I want you to write about your deepest emotions and thoughts about the most upsetting experience in your life. Really let go and explore your feelings and thoughts about it. In your writing, you might tie this experience to your childhood, your relationship with your parents, people you have loved or love now, or even your career. How is this experience related to who you would like to become, who you have been in the past, or who you are now?
Many people have not had a single traumatic experience but all of us have had major conflicts or stressors in our lives and you can write about them as well. You can write about the same issue every day or a series of different issues. Whatever you choose to write about, however, it is critical that you really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts.
Warning: Many people report that after writing, they sometimes feel somewhat sad or depressed. Like seeing a sad movie, this typically goes away in a couple of hours. If you find that you are getting extremely upset about a writing topic, simply stop writing or change topics.
What to do with your Writing Samples:
The writing is for you and for you only. Their purpose is for you to be completely honest with yourself. When writing, secretly plan to get rid of your writing when you are finished. Whether you keep it or save it is really up to you.
Some people keep their samples and edit them. That is, they gradually change their writing from day to day. Others simply keep them and return to them over and over again to see how they have changed.
Here are some other options:
Burn them. Erase them. Shred them. Flush them. Tear them into little pieces and toss them into the ocean or let the wind take them away. Eat them (not recommended).
Some References for Writing, Journalling, or Diaries:
A video of the original writing method can be seen by clicking here.
There are some outstanding books by people who have an intuitive and practical approach to writing. Each author approaches journalling or diary writing in very different ways. Check the various books out and see what works best for you.
Adams, Kathleen (1998). The Way of the Journal : A Journal Therapy Workbook for Healing. Sidron Press.
Baldwin, Christina (1992). One to One : Self-Understanding Through Journal Writing. Evans Publisher
DeSalvo, Louise A. (2000). Writing As a Way of Healing : How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. Beacon Press.
Fox, John (1997). Poetic Medicine : The Healing Art of Poem-Making. Tarcher Press
Goldberg, Natalie and Guest, Judith (1986). Writing Down the Bones : Freeing the Writer Within. Shambhala Press.
Jacobs, Beth (2005). Writing for Emotional Balance, New Harbinger Publishers.
Pennebaker, James W. (1997). Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotion. NY: Guilford Press.
Pennebaker, J.W. & Evans, J.F. (2014). Expressive Writing: Words that Heal. Enumclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor.
Pennebaker, J.W. (2004). Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval. Denver, CO: Center for Journal Therapy.
Rainer, Tristine (1979). The New Diary : How to Use a Journal for Self-Guidance and Expanded Creativity. Tarcher
Discussions about: abuse, anxiety, developmental and cognitive disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, mood disorders, sexual disorders, psychotic disorders, addictions, general health, therapy, and more.
The basic idea of cognitive therapy is that your thinking determines your mood, and if you change your thinking, you will change your life.
The most common types of negative thinking are all-or-nothing thinking and disqualifying the positives. If you think that things have to be perfect and anything less than perfect is a failure, you're setting yourself up for trouble. If you focus on the few negatives in your life and disqualify the many positives, you're more prone to anxiety, depression, and addiction. Cognitive therapy helps you identify your negative thinking and replace it with healthier thinking.
The basic tool of cognitive therapy is the thought record. It is a journal in which you write down your negative thoughts and analyze them step-by-step. It gives you the chance to reflect on your thinking after the fact, when you’re not reacting out of fear or resentment, and a systematic approach to come up with healthier alternatives.
These are the 10 common types of negative thinking:
There are 10 steps to a thought record. The first six steps guide you through understanding your negative thinking, and where it came from. The next four steps help you come up with healthier thinking and incorporate it into your life. Write a thought record about unpleasant experiences that you would like to have handled differently. You can write about past or current experiences. Start with easy ones at first. Wait until you are more practiced before dealing with more uncomfortable experiences.
1. The situation. Briefly describe the situation that led to your unpleasant feelings. This will help you remember it later if you want to review your notes.
I made a mistake at work. I felt anxious and was reminded of past failures.
2. Initial thought. What thought first crossed your mind? This was probably a subconscious or automatic thought that you have had before.
I feel like a failure. If people knew the real me, they wouldn't like me.
3. Negative thinking. Identify the negative thinking behind your initial thought. Choose one or more from the list of common types of negative thinking.
This is self-labeling and disqualifying the positives.
4. Source of negative belief. Can you trace your thinking back to a situation or person? Is there a deep belief or fear driving your thinking? Search your heart.
I can hear the voice of my parent saying that I’m a failure and that I’ll never amount to anything.
5. Challenge your thinking. Look at the evidence both for and against your thinking. Have you been in a similar situation before? What did you learn from it? What strengths do you bring to this situation? Make sure you see the whole picture.
I'm hard on myself. I don't always succeed, but I do sometimes. People have complimented me on my work. I feel overwhelmed when I try to be perfect.
6. Consider the consequences. What are the short-term and long-term consequences if you continue to think like this? Look at the physical, psychological, professional, and emotional consequences.
I'm damaging my self-esteem. If I continue to think like this, my negativity will affect my relationships and possibly my health. I'll become exhausted.
7. Alternative thinking. The previous steps of the thought record helped you understand your thinking and lower your defenses. Now that you've considered the facts, write down a healthier way of thinking.
I don't have to succeed at everything. I can learn from my mistakes. I’m not a failure. I want to get rid of this negative thinking. I'm being hard on myself.
8. Positive belief and affirmation. Write down a statement that reflects your healthier beliefs. Find something that you can repeat to yourself.
A mistake is not failure. I am successful in many ways.
9. Action plan. What action can you take to support your new thinking?
The next time I make a mistake, I won't dwell on the negatives. Instead I will focus on what I can learn from my mistake. I will remind myself of my past successes.
10. Improvement. Do you feel slightly better or more optimistic? This step reinforces the idea that if you change your thinking, you will change your mood. Gradually over time, your thinking and life will begin to improve.
There are no restrictions on the printing of this document. It is provided as a public service by www.CognitiveTherapyGuide.org. For a more complete guide to cognitive therapy refer to the book "I Want to Change My Life" by Dr. Steven M. Melemis.
Ask your doctor or therapist if cognitive therapy is right for you. These techniques can complement the work you do with your doctor or therapist, but they should be used in combination with professional guidance.
Blog postings by:
Nadine Duckworth, M.Ed. Registered Psychologist