One of the best things about being retired is that you have the time to do things that are good for you. In keeping with the theme of being lazy and happy while retired, I am going to talk about some of the very simple things we can do to help reduce the stress that we are dealing with.
First of all, I want to acknowledge that all of life is stressful. Stress is something that goes along with the challenges of everyday living, not just something that happens when there is a large problem or a tragedy. Normal life includes cars that won’t start, missed trains and planes, unexpected expenses. Normal stress is sometimes the thing that pushes us over the edge, makes us think that we can’t cope, that we can’t talk any more.
You may have heard that one way to reduce the experience of stress is to breathe. This is both simple and difficult when you are feeling “stressed out” or overwhelmed. Prolonged stress may have the effect of interfering with appetite (increasing or decreasing), sleep, problem solving, and communication. In the middle of a stressful situation we may not ever think that we should take a few moments, and breathe.
Because we don’t think about breathing when we are upset, it is important to practice a short breathing meditation on a daily basis, when we are not upset. Then when we are under unusual (or usual) stress we will have the skill right there, ready to use.
In addition, many of us, when we are tense, will hold our breath, will stop breathing. Once, when a friend was teaching me how to play poker, he could always tell when I was bluffing. How? He told me I was holding my breath.
How to breathe.
Sit in a comfortable place, sitting straight, your hands quiet, possibly in your lap. You can set a timer for about 10 minutes perhaps less to start. Then start breathing. Don’t worry about how deep your breathing is, just make it soft and regular. While you are breathing, focus your attention on the air going in and then out of your lungs. No pressure, when your mind wanders, just bring it back to your breathing. When other thoughts or worries come into your head, let them go, just let them waft away. Bring your mind back to your breath. It doesn’t matter how often you bring your mind back, there is no winners circle to breathing.
After 10 minutes (or however long you do this), briefly stretch, and continue to go about your day.
Why does this work?
There are a few reasons why this works and why it is a good thing to do. It looks lazy. Good. Over time you will be happy. Actual physical changes take place in the brain as you practice meditation. These changes in the Dorsal-lateral frontal lobes are associated with a sense of calm and contentment.
Second, when you are paying attention to your breathing, your mind is staying in the present. Paying attention to the present moment is one of the best antidotes to anxiety. There are few things more here and now than breathing.
Third, you are quiet, your mind and your body are learning to relax. This may lead to better problem solving, more endurance, and better sleep.