I was obsessed with thinking the same troubling thought over and over again. I guess it happens to all of us at some time or another, or possibly daily. Something is troubling you and you keep replaying it in your mind like a gerbil on a wheel. The difference is that the gerbil seems to be having a good time. The continuous looping of the thought can drive you to distraction. Try as you might, the thought still insinuates itself into your consciousness. You may be able to keep it at bay for 15-20 minutes, particularly if you’re on some project that acts as a distraction, but usually it is ever present, and shadows you until the issue is resolved.
Considering the fact that I do a lot of yoga, and so it seems half the world does, we are supposed to put our attention on the breath. This, for me, greatly helps the looping but how long can you stay in down dog?
The breath is such a logical and safe object of attention that it is the most commonly used focus of meditation. As Andrew Weil, MD and author of NY Times best-seller “Spontaneous Happiness“ writes, “the more you can train yourself to shift attention away from emotionally upsetting thoughts (or images), the better off you will be, and the breath is a very safe place to shift it – rather than putting your mind’s engine in neutral.”
If you’re ever tried deep breathing, you understand how breath links body and mind, consciousness and unconsciousness. As in yoga, breath gives access to the involuntary nervous system and makes it possible to influence cardiovascular, digestive, and other functions ordinarily beyond conscious control. It’s also a way to calm the restless mind and facilitate one-pointed attention. It definitely promotes well-being.
Dr. Weil offers some simple rules for breath work in the above book. They are:
* Put your attention on the breath whenever possible
* Whenever you can, try to make your breathing deeper, slower, quieter and more regular
* Let the belly expand outward when you inhale
* To deepen breathing, practice exhaling more air at the end of each breath
As you know, when people are anxious, angry or upset, their breathing is always rapid, shallow, noisy and irregular.
Slow, deep, quiet, regular breathing simply can’t coexist with emotional upset.
Here’s another great breathing suggestion for anti-anxiety.
1 Place the tip of the tongue against the ridge behind and above the front teeth. Keep in there for the whole exercise.
2 Exhale completely through the mouth (and puckered lips), making a whoosh sound.
3 Close the mouth and inhale deeply and quietly through the nose to a silent count of 4.
4 Hold the breath for a count of 7
5 Exhale through the mouth to a count of 8, making the same sound
6 Repeat steps 3, 4 and 6 for a total of four breaths. You can do this in any position as long as the back is straight. Do this exercise 2 times a day whenever you feel stressed or anxious. If you find this helpful, after a month of doing the 4 breath exercise it’s suggested you increase to eight breaths twice a day, every day.
You will probably find that this breathing exercise will become a powerful means of inducing a state of deep relaxation and will stop anxiety and negative thinking in its tracks.
Another book by Dr. Weil which I’d highly recommend is “You Can’t Afford to Get Sick: Your Guide to Optimum Health and Health Care“