The Benefits of Breath Awareness

Breathing is not something that we think about or focus on, and it often goes unnoticed. When most of us think of “deep breathing” we think of the amount of air we breathe in. The key to deep breathing is actually not the amount of air we take in, but the use of our diaphragm vs. our chest.

Chest breathing can make us feel constricted, tight, and anxious. Deep breathing, also known as belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, allows for more oxygen to enter our bodies, subsequently improving our well-being. More oxygen in our bodies, means more carbon dioxide being expelled, and more toxins being released from our bodies. Aside from detoxing and improving our immune system, practicing deep breathing regularly can:

  • Increase your energy

  • Improve digestion

  • Relieve muscle tension

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Slow down the appearance of aging

  • Improve sleep quality

  • Relieve stress and anxiety

The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique is a popular exercise that is effective at reducing stress by regulating your breathing and activating your parasympathetic nervous system. In doing so, it regulates our fight-or-flight response and helps calm us. To do this technique, sit upright in a comfortable position or lay down if you’re trying to induce sleep. Then, in one breathing cycle you will:

  1. Slightly part your lips and while making a whooshing sound, completely exhale out your mouth

  2. Close your mouth and silently inhale through your nose, while counting to four in your head.

  3. Hold your breath for seven seconds.

  4. Exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.

  5. Repeat for a total of four breath cycles.

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Regularly practicing deep breathing exercises is also extremely important during massages. Controlling your breathing and relaxing your mind during your massage will lead your body to do the same, resulting in a deeper sense of relaxation. By taking deep breaths during your massage, you’ll be switching from your fight-or-flight response to your parasympathetic nervous system. Your parasympathetic nervous system will lower pain reception in the body, promote toxin release, and increase blood supply to stiff muscles, making sure you get the most out of your massage.

Although breathing is mostly involuntary, we only breathe properly when our body is functioning properly. Our back and chest muscles relax and contract during our breathing cycle and may tighten or become stiff when we experience stress or anxiety. This can affect our breathing, making it more shallow and resulting in a limited amount of oxygen in our bodies, which can lead to fatigue, headaches, and nausea. Body massages can help alleviate stiffness in our back and chest, improving the function of our respiratory system. Breathing deeply during your massage will also help strengthen your primary breathing muscles, further providing a more effective resistance to stress.

By being conscious of your breathing, you’ll be able to manage your stress and anxiety more efficiently. It may take practice, but by making focused, deep breathing part of your daily routine, your massages will be more effective, giving you a more relaxed, quality lifestyle.

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The Power of Positivity

At Serenity Zen, we believe in not only offering quality services to our customers, but also offering a maximally relaxing experience and escape from everyday stressors. While massage therapy is extremely effective at relieving physical tension, much of our stress could be managed and even prevented simply by our thoughts and mentality.

Negative thinking. We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but how we move forward from them really has a significant effect on our health. Every negative thought is an opportunity to reframe things in a more positive way, and when not controlled, having negative thoughts can take you down a rabbit hole of unhealthy ways of thinking.

Negative thoughts can cause chronic states of depression and anxiety, decreased heart health and immunity, and even shorten your lifespan. The most common form of negative thinking is overthinking, which can feel like a coping method that allows us to control a situation. The fact is, however, most of life’s stressors are not controllable and having them constantly on our mind does more harm than good to us.

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Positive thinking has been proven to improve the way you cope with stressors, increase your immunity, limit your risk of heart disease and increase your lifespan. Positive thinking can also be a huge motivator, opening more opportunities to you and increasing your chances of success and happiness. Rather than falling apart during a crisis or high stress situation, positive thinking can provide resilience and make you more proactive in finding a solution and moving forward.

Here are some common negative thoughts and their positive alternatives:

I’ve never done it before → This is an opportunity to learn something new.

It’s too hard/it will never work → I can keep trying my best because it is not impossible.

I’m not cut out for this → I’m learning from my mistakes and can also see what I’m doing right.

Bad things keep happening to me → I will come out of this stronger and more prepared.

Today is going to be a bad day → There is so much potential for the day.

Having a consistent, positive mentality takes practice. In the beginning, it can be as simple as starting the day by saying, “today is going to be a good day.” Most importantly, by practicing overcoming negative thinking by switching them to positive thoughts, you’ll become better equipped for managing your stress and preventing unnecessary tension.

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Why and How to Establish a Sleep Schedule

Health is multidimensional, so it's important to have multiple healthy habits rather than just one. For example, you may exercise regularly, but not getting enough quality sleep can negatively affect your exercise performance and overall health (and vice versa). Too often do we sacrifice our sleep to make time for other things, not realizing that in doing so, we are sacrificing much more.

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Sleep deficiency is something we’ve all experienced, whether you’re going back to school, are working extended hours, or just consider yourself a night owl. Not only is creating a sleep schedule for yourself a great health habit, but it also promotes self discipline. Adults are recommended to get anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep, and while that may seem like wasted time to those with busy schedules, it is vital for our overall well-being as sleep deficiency is linked to:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased Appetite
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease and type II diabetes)
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Weakened immune system

Creating a consistent sleep schedule can be difficult, let alone getting enough sleep. However, it only takes 21 consecutive days for a behavior to become a habit. Our bodies crave consistency, and by committing to a sleep schedule, you’ll notice the many ways in which your body will thank you.

To create a sleep schedule and improve your sleep quality, you must:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday (even on the weekends)
  • Skip the snooze button
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and eating large meals before bed
  • Write down wandering thoughts so that they don’t distract you from falling asleep
  • Go to bed as soon as you’re feeling tired and get out of bed if you're not tired
  • Keep your room quiet, cool and dark
  • Exercise and expose yourself to natural light as much as possible during the day
  • Avoid artificial light in the evening (especially from computers, t.v., or your phone) so your body doesn’t think it’s time to be awake
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bed such as reading, taking a warm bath, or getting a massage
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Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to prepare your body for sleep. Massages, whether received during the day or at night, are especially helpful with improving sleep quality because they trigger the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps calm the body and relieve pain. Massages have also been proven to increase deep sleep by decreasing depression and anxiety, in both adults and children. We recommend making massages a part of your routine, at least once a month, to maintain tension and anxiety, and ensure good quality sleep at night.