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Relieve Your Stress by Using Your Body’s Priority to Create Tension or Relaxation in Your Nervous System

Relieve Your Stress by Using Your Body’s Priority to Create Tension or Relaxation in Your Nervous System
Your body has priority over your mind in expressing feelings of stress or relaxation. This is because your nervous system's communication to your brain about whether everything is functioning properly inside your body is more important for your survival than responding with feelings to your thoughts.

When something remarkable happens to your body, your subconscious brain turns its attention primarily towards that. However, when nothing special happens to your body, your subconscious can direct almost all its attention towards your thoughts. Whether you experience stress or relaxation is then largely determined by what you are thinking about.

Changes In Your Breathing Can Induce the Sensation of Tension or Relaxation

Breathing is obviously one of the most important physiological processes. At any moment when you start to do something that influences your breathing, your subconscious brain will start reacting to that more and more, while paying less and less attention to your conscious thoughts. Therefore, what happens to your breathing will start to determine more and more whether you feel stressed or relaxed. For example, when your breathing is interrupted for a long time, at some point, you will experience stress, even if you had relaxing thoughts in your mind.

On the other hand, when you finally start breathing again after a long interruption, you always feel deep relief, even if you previously had stressful thoughts.

Generally, when you breathe in and hold it, your heart rate increases, and you feel increasing tension. During slow exhalation, your heart rate decreases, and you feel relaxed as you remove the carbon dioxide that has built up in your lungs. When you breathe out slowly, two neurotransmitters, acetylcholine and GABA, are released in your nervous system, inducing the neurologic processes that make you feel relaxed. They lower your heartbeat and increase the sequestration of cortisol from your blood. The longer you extend your exhalation, the stronger the relaxing effects can be. Therefore, breathing exercises that involve prolonged exhalation can be very powerful for immediately inducing relaxation and relieving stress.

With Tensing and Relaxing Your Muscles, You Can Relieve Your Mental Pressure

Tension and relaxation in your muscles work similarly. When you tense your muscles, you feel tension, and when you relax your muscles, you feel some level of relaxation, regardless of your thoughts. You can control your physical muscles easily through conscious thinking, but your “mental muscles” are not as easily controlled. If you are mentally stressed, you cannot just instantly relax. Therefore, it is a blessing that you can always consciously induce some relaxation in yourself through breathing or physical exercises. It works even better when you guide your attention from your stressful thoughts to the physical sensation of what you’re doing. By doing conscious physical activities, where you repetitively stretch and relax your muscles, you can instantly relieve a lot of your mental pressure as well.

Exercising Can Restore a Healthy Neurochemical Balance

While exercising, you can also pay attention to how neurochemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins are released in your nervous system. Dopamine makes you feel energetic, motivated, and happy in general. Serotonin makes you feel calm and satisfied. Endorphins can make you feel light and slightly euphoric. During stretching and breathing exercises, your brain can even release the hormone oxytocin, which can make you feel lovingly connected to your environment. This way, using your body-brain connection, you can consciously modify your neurochemical balance, even when you can’t control it directly through your thoughts. If you practice it more often, you can learn to influence your mood, emotions, cognitive abilities, and even your different states of consciousness better and better.

Indian yogis and Buddhist monks discovered how the power of the body can control the mind thousands of years ago. They learned through conscious observation of feelings and emotions. Meditation is mostly based on conscious breathing and paying attention to different sensations in the body, using it as a tool for controlling the mind. Yoga is based on breathing and physical exercises. Both activities are highly effective for improving your mental and physical health.

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