Until recently, it was thought that our autonomic nervous system was beyond our conscious control. Thanks to studies performed on the Wim Hof Method, it is now known that we can influence certain autonomic functions in our body.
The Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls our internal organs and the functions in our body such as heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion and production of hormones.
The ANS is made up of two main branches:
1. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): The “fight or flight response”.
2. The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): The “rest and digest” system.
In many cases both of these systems have “opposite” actions where one system activates a physiological response and the other inhibits it.
These days, our high stress lives push us into a more SNS dominant state. If we don’t know how to calm it down, we can suffer in many ways. It may be hard to sleep at night or recover from exercise and daily stress. Long term, you may suffer some chronic disease related stress and inflammation.
The ability to calm ourselves in stressful situations and turn on our PNS will help us make better decisions and not act on impulse. When our SNS is activated our body prepares us to fight or to flee. Blood is pumped to the heart, extremities and eyes and we are given a dose of adrenaline. At the same time, blood is pushed away from the brain inhibiting our reasoning capacity. This is often the time when people do things that they later regret. Less blood and oxygen to the brain=less ability to think straight!
Accessing the Autonomic Nervous System
There is one vital function in our body that is both automatic and voluntary: our breath. How we breathe directly influences our ANS and so is the key to influencing whether one system is dominant or the other. Our breathing is much like the gas pedal and the break in a car. If we breathe faster we are giving gas and activating the fight or flight response and if we breathe slower we activate the rest and digest system. This is super simple but has profound implications for both our physical well being and our mental health as well as improving the general quality of our lives.
Turn to your breath in times of stress. It can take a bit of practice at the start but be patient. Try to catch and acknowledge yourself getting angry. Disconnect momentarily from the stressor and focus on controlling your breath. The more you practice this, the easier it will get and the less stressed you will get.
Box breathing is a technique used by the Navy Seals Special Forces. The special forces have to be able to act calmly and make important decisions in high stress, life or death situations. Box breathing calms the fight or flight response quickly.It is a great technique that can be implemented in our daily lives and can also be a good and more effective method than counting sheep at night!
5 Simple Steps:
1. Breathe in for 4 seconds
2. Hold for 4 seconds
3. Breathe out for 4 seconds
4. Hold for 4 seconds
5. Repeat until you are calm
Breathe through your nose
To calm your system, always try to breathe through your nose. It is linked to the rest and digest system and has many other benefits. Breathing through your mouth is linked to the fight or flight response and will have the opposite effect.
Dont underestimate the power of your breath. Various scientific studies on the Wim Hof Methd has shown how it can improve the quality of our lives, influencing body temperature, immune system, hormone release, circulation, mood and much more.
If you are interested in learning how to improve your health, reduce stress, improve your sleep and mood, increase your energy levels and boost your immune system and metabolism through breathing, visit http://optimalhealthmethod.com or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Luke Wills
About the author
Luke Wills has over 7 years experience in the Fitness Industry and is a pioneer in Spain in disciplines such as Kettlebell Training, the Wim Hof Method and The Oxygen Advantage.
The Optimal Health Method is the combination of environmental conditioning, breathing techniques, optimal nutrition coaching and personalized exercise routines, forming a truly unique and effective method that gives real results, because health is so much more than just exercise.
Luke lives in a self built, off grid house in the country side of Mallorca with his wife, baby, dogs and chickens.