The four-in, four-out breathing also ensures that your breath isn’t shallow—it’s fuller, deeper and more even than our regular breathing, and that helps the nervous system enter a state of active calm. “You can access this state at any time during the day,” says Dr. Nicolai. Did someone make you angry in a meeting? Take a lap around the office, bring it back to the breathing and settle your body’s reaction to that stress.
Breathwalking is just one example of how Dr. Nicolai is finding simpler ways to bring good health into our everyday. “You may not have time for a 45-minute meditation practice,” he says, “but you’ve gotta walk and you’ve gotta breathe.”
Note that Dr. Nicolai didn’t say the changes are easy—but rather simple, meaning they can integrate into your day if you commit to them. He recommends seeking out people who are talking about these small changes (there are hundreds of them) and finding the ones that sound appealing. Try those. If something doesn’t work for you? “Drop it,” says Dr. Nicolai. “If there’s a component that doesn’t fit, it doesn’t get to be part of your life.” He notes that the key is to choose changes that are simple enough that you can say, “This is who I am and what I do.” Anything that doesn’t fall into that category will be too complex—and too stressful—to maintain long term.
The rituals of our life propel us in a certain direction. Most of us have habits—ice cream after dinner, anyone?—that we didn’t necessarily choose mindfully but that are now deeply ingrained in our everyday. “When you choose to integrate a healthy habit or ritual into your life, that guides the momentum of your whole being towards health,” says Dr. Nicolai. So who’s up for some breathwalking?
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