6 Ways to Activate the Parasympathetic System

The Autonomic Nervous System is made of the Sympathetic Nervous System and Parasympathetic Nervous System.

The Sympathetic System is necessary in times of exercise, or if fast physical action is needed (“Fight or Flight”).

Like all things in nature, we want to achieve balance. This blog post will discuss the benefits of activating the parasympathetic nervous system, why to do it and how to do it.

Working with the autonomic system is truly the playground of energy medicine. The Autonomic Nervous System is controlled by the vagus nerve and spinal cord. This system is very responsive to stress. During times of stress, either prolonged or brief, the Sympathetic Nervous system will govern bodily functions. The Sympathetic Nervous system will change the endocrine system to prepare for a threat. This means the hormone system will be producing more “stress hormones” (such adrenaline and cortisol) constantly.

How do you know when it’s time to activate the parasympathetic system?

  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Feeling ungrounded
  • Increasing pain levels
  • Digestive issues
  • Sexual dysfunction

Experiencing any of these signs or symptoms means that likely your sympathetic nervous system is running the show. It’s time to find balance.


1. Grounding Meditation While Standing

Standing with your feet firmly in place preferably barefoot for 1 to 3 minutes can help slow down your nervous system and let the parasympathetic system activate. In the book 21 Day Meditation Journey, we practice doing a few poses standing to activate Earth energy. Focusing your energy on your legs and feet can help to slow down racing thoughts. Do this simply by taking several deep breaths while standing and if your balance allows with your eyes closed.

9 ways to ground your energy

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2. Hip Openers to Relax The Mind and Body

Yoga uses asanas (Yoga Poses) that focus on the hips to relieve stress.  The hip joints are weight bearing joints.  The hips, the hip girdle and lower back are also a place where many of us hold stress in our bodies.  This can be felt by tightness in the hips, trouble going from standing or sitting, or back pain.

Freeing up the hip joints through stretches will allow the mind and body to relax deeply.  These poses can be modified for comfort of course.  

Yoga Poses To Open the Hips

How to Modify These Poses

  • Sit on a blanket or block in Half-Lotus for comfort
  • Use Blocks or Blankets underneath the knees in Cobbler’s Pose
  • Sit on Blankets or Blocks in Yogi Squat
  • Dead Pigeon Pose on the Back is an alternative to Pigeon Pose

3. Deep Belly Breath

The Parasympathetic Nervous System can be activated with deep breaths into the belly. Breathing is controlled primarily by the Autonomic Nervous System. We can take conscious control of breath be taking deeper, slower breaths.

Taking deep Belly Breaths doesn’t require a formal meditation practice. You can do this even while reading this blog post.

Breath Into the Belly Now

  • Sit or stand straight, aligning
  • Loosen your clothing if needed
  • Inhale by initiating the breath by expanding the belly first, then the chest
  • Exhale first from the chest then the belly, squeeze the belly in.

4. Slow Down Your Breath

Breathing too rapidly is a a habit we all fall into easily. Hyperventilation, which is taking in too much oxygen, can occur if breathing is occurring only in the chest. During times of stress and anxiety, particularly if you’re sitting for prolonged periods, this can easily occur.

Breathing deeply and slowly allows the Parasympathetic system to engage. This can calm the mind and body.

breath in and out to the count of 4
Breath Counting Exercise

5. Express Your Feelings

The Autonomic Nervous System never lies. If you are hanging on to thoughts of pain, hurt, or resentment those emotions are being stored within your body. Finding a way to safely and effectively express your emotions will allow you to release stress and let your parasympathetic nervous system increase its activity. There’s no need to confront anyone or start a fight.

Using a journal, or a piece of paper you can safely discard, write down your feelings that are creating discomfort. Doing this will relief your body of the tension of unexpressed emotions.

Mindfulness Writing
Mindfulness Writing Exercise

6. Meditate to Quiet the Mind

Meditation is a powerful tool to calm the Sympathetic Nervous System (“Fight or Flight”) and engage the Parasympathetic Nervous System.

Meditation can be a simple moment of mindfulness of 3 minutes, or a formal practice.

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Parasympathetic Vs. Sympathetic

How to know which part of your autonomic system is active. The Autonomic System controls many parts of the body. See full blog post here.

What is the Autonomic Nervous System?

Understanding the autonomic system is a powerful healing tool. The autonomic nervous system controls every function in the body. In the most recent Art of Healing Podcast, we discuss what is blood pressure.

Many patients often wonder why they have high blood pressure. Many others also wonder why they have digestive issues when they feel nervous (such as nausea or diarrhea).

What is the autonomic nervous system?

What is the autonomic nervous system?

Understanding the nervous system helps you understand your body.

Within all of us, there is a system the controls heart rate, respiration, digestion, waste elimination, and sexual function. This same system influences our moods, and can control how we feel moment to moment.

The Autonomic Nervous System deeply impacts our experience in reality. Understanding this system will give you the keys to healing your mind and body.


What is the Autonomic System?

The cognitive functions such as thinking, emotions and voluntary bodily actions are governed by the Central Nervous System. The Central Nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. The brain and spinal cord send information to the body and receive information back through sensory neurons.

While we can control how fast we breath (such as slowing down the breath during meditation), it is difficult to consciously control the heart rate. It is nearly impossible to consciously change digestion, for instance, we can not control how fast peristalsis (contractions of the muscles of the intestines) occur.

The Autonomic Nervous System controls the bodily functions that are not under conscious control This sounds deceptively simple. Respiration, circulation, digestion, immunity and reproduction all most be coordinated in order for the body to function in a healthy way. This must be balanced against the bodies need to move in order to acquire energy, expend energy or escape a threat.


The Autonomic Nervous System is divided into two systems, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.

In general, these systems oppose each other. One is always active, and only decreases it’s activity if the opposing system generates more signals.


Each system is dominant under certain conditions. The sympathetic system predominates during emergency 'fight-or-flight' reactions and during exercise...the parasympathetic system predominates during quiet, resting conditions.

“Each system is dominant under certain conditions. The sympathetic system predominates during emergency ‘fight-or-flight’ reactions and during exercise…the parasympathetic system predominates during quiet, resting conditions.”

— McCorry L.K., Physiology of the Autonomic Nervous System


Parasympathetic Nervous System

There are times in which the body needs to rest and recover, such as after meals, when it’s time to sleep, or simply relax.  There is no significant demand on the body to exert energy for survival. 

This mode of operation is when the parasympathetic system is dominant.  This system will influence the body to slow down the heart rate, increase digestive activity, and overall create a feeling of being relaxed.  This is the feeling we all have relaxing in our favorite chair reading a book for example.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System allows the mind and body to rest, digest and recover. When the body can slow down, the digestive system is able to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste effectively. The reproductive system can operate naturally, allowing for a natural libido that will ensure healthy sexual drive. The cardiovascular system, through the parasympathetic nervous system, will direct blood flow to the organ to ensure the normal bodily functions can perform at their best.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blausen_0703_Parasympathetic_Innervation.png”>Blausen 0703 Parasympathetic Innervation

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Function of the Parasympathetic Nervous System

  • Increases blood flow to digestive tract to encourage waste elimination
  • Encourages blood flow and nerve function ton augment sexual functioning
  • Increases blood flow to the digestive tract to improve motility of digestive system and nutrient absorption
  • Slows down the heart rate

Sympathetic Nervous System

Rest and recovery are necessary, but there are times in which we need to be active and kinetic.  We need to be alert, aware, and reflexes need to be at their peak.  When driving in heavy traffic, for example, the body needs to be able to react quickly to avoid a car accident.  Blood flow needs to be directed to the extremities to augment fast action if needed.  The heart should pick up speed in anticipation of a possible threat.  The pupils will dilate to improve vision.  This is when the sympathetic part of the sympathetic nervous system will dominate.  

The Sympathetic Nervous System controls blood flow, reflexes, and temperature of the limbs.  Reflexes are an important survival tool for the living body. 

The Sympathetic Nervous System operates mostly outside of the nervous system. This system is designed to run on speed and reflex. It is the Sympathetic Nervous System that governs reflexes. One example is if you reach for an object that’s too hot to touch, you will notice you withdraw your hand before you even register the pain of heat.

The Sympathetic Nervous system is activated in times of exercise but also in stress. The design of the sympathetic nervous system operates with speed, and does not require the input of the brain. This system is able to activate the adrenal glands in times of crisis. The “fight or flight” reaction is when some sort of stimuli that creates fear engages the Sympathetic Nervous system, which will cause the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands. This powerful reaction can be life saving in times of trauma. It is a very necessary system for survival.

Function of the Sympathetic Nervous System

  • Decreased blood flow to the digestive tract
  • increased blood flow to the extremities
  • Increases heart rate and respiration
  • Turns sweat glands on
  • Dilates pupils to improve vision

What does the Autonomic System Control?

All of the organs of the body are controlled by the autonomic system.  The skeletal muscles and bones of the limbs are controlled by the sympathetic system.  Since the “Fight of Flight” of the body usually requires increased blood flow to the limbs, ths Sympathetic System exerts control in this area.

The organs of the chest and abdomen are controlled by both the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous systems.

We often don’t realize our body must be able to respond to external stimuli rapidly. If there’s a threat heading our way, our brain may take several minutes to process the threat. Fortunately, we have intelligent bodies that can take over the process of running, hiding, or fighting. For this reason, the sympathetic nervous system, which governs the body’s ability to respond to external threats rapidly, does not need to communicate much with the brain.

The parasympathetic nervous system governs the body’s ability to digest food, have sexual intercourse, and eliminate waste, as well as influences the cardiovascular system to slow down. From this description we can tell that the parasympathetic system is best to run the body system in times of rest, relaxation or recovery.

Why Understand the Autonomic Nervous System?

The Autonomic Nervous System influences all of the glands of the body. Control of hormonal production is heavily influenced by the Autonomic Nervous System.

I have the blessing of working with individuals with their bodies on a daily basis. Reflecting on this topic has reminded me of the true, miraculous nature of the human body.

The Chakra System, knowledge imparted from the ancient healing system of Ayurveda can be demystified by analysis of the Autonomic System.

It is for this reason I am embarking on my next project with my heart and soul. This project will journey even deeper into demystifying the mind-body connection by understanding the Heart Chakra.

Stay tuned for next week in this series in which we will discuss more in depth be sympathetic any parasympathetic nervous systems.

The next few months at Healing Arts will be full of exciting content.

Sign up for updates, and to catch the latest Art of Healing Podcast

References:

  1. McCorry L. K. (2007). Physiology of the autonomic nervous system. American journal of pharmaceutical education, 71(4), 78. https://doi.org/10.5688/aj710478

July 2021 Video Roundup

Check out my video for July 2021; Catch up on all the Healing Arts Content in a few minutes.

The Labs to Know to Heal Inflammation and Decrease COVID Risk

The COVID Pandemic is not giving us a break. Despite massive vaccination efforts, the disease continues to spread due to genetic variation. Beyond vaccination status, a strong, efficient immune system protects you from COVID and chronic disease. This requires a healthy metabolism. Do you know what Diabetes, Hypertension, COPD, Coronary artery disease all have in … Continue reading The Labs to Know to Heal Inflammation and Decrease COVID Risk

Happy New Year!

Let’s Get Acquainted I wanted to start the year with a personal greeting. Check out the latest Youtube Video here: Meditation Resources at Healing Arts 21 Day Meditation Challenge 21 Day Meditation Journey Book Meditation for Complete Beginners Reiki Resources at Healing Arts Download the free book Reiki 101 Here Start your Reiki Journey Here … Continue reading Happy New Year!

3 Ways to Sabotage Your Mood With Food

We all make poor food choices at some point in our life. Food has evolved in our lives to be much more than nourishment for the body. You can be stress relief, used to celebrate, are used to calm anxious nerves.
No matter what health condition you’re dealing with, understanding that there may be times you sabotage your own progress helps you to understand yourself. Self compassion is key on any healing journey.

Using Sugar to Calm Anxiety

Many of my patients struggling with their weight or diabetes isn’t it to snacking on sweets excessively and they’re feeling nervous. Furthermore, getting activities very likely occur during times of inside.
The impulse to eat my feel nervous stamps from when you take engage the parasympathetic system. The parasympathetic system is a part of the nervous system that covers eating, slow heart rate, sexual activity, and 3digestive function. During times of anxiety, it is the sympathetic system. This is the system that governs me fight or flight.
Many of us discover on accident that we can engage our parasympathetic system by eating. The act of chewing swallowing will stimulate the stomach to sin signals through the vagus nerve up to the brain that will help calm the system. Naturally, this is not good for the metabolism. Snacking to Lauren’s body levels will lead to weight gain and possibly diabetes.

If you are suffering from this, this is a good reason to consider starting meditation. You can engage your parasympathetic system with purposeful, slow deep breath.

Eating When Bored or Depressed


The digestive tract is a complex system that starts from the mouth and goes to the anus. They are layers of muscle and also a layer of nervous tissue. The nervous tissue of the gut actually contains more neurons then the grain itself.  The gut produces and responses to the same neurotransmitters that circulate in the brain.

Engaging and overeating particular when they are depressed or often attempting to raise their serotonin levels. Serotonin is to feel good hormone and one of the building blocks to make serotonin is carbohydrates.

Relying on food to improve the mood can lead on unwanted weight gain, and disease such as diabetes.

Meditations that focus on the core are a good remedy for this. See my book 21 day meditation journey or sign up for my course to get started today

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Feeding Your Cravings

I often ask my patients as well as ask myself what food is being craved. There is so much media that tells us if we are craving a food particularly something that’s unhealthy we should eat it. Really, when you’re having a craving your body is telling you you are insufficient in some nutrient.

To the craving for sugar, or salt, find a stack that is just the opposite of what you were craving. If you’re wanting something sweet, try snacking on nuts. If you’re wanting something salty, try something like organic fruit. Snacking on nuts for wanting something sweet will help to stabilize your insulin levels and hopefully stop the for something sweet. And you are craving salt, you like clean water, so in addition to drinking water eating a piece of fruit will get water into your body naturally.

3 Ways the Healing Art of Observation can Improve Your Health

Using the power of observation to connect to yourself.

Observation is a tool frequently used in meditation mindfulness to help focus the brain. When we take our attention to one specific object and not only helps to eliminate distracting thoughts, but we can also learn something about ourselves.

Recently I have deepened my studies in the practice of meditation. Learning that observations are powerful tool I’ve also started bringing this into my medical practice. I have offered patients prompts they can use to observe their mind and body.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how the power of observation is helped my patients to understand themselves and has allowed me to help them more effectively. Here are three ways in which observation can be used in your own healing journey.

Gathering data

The clinical encounter medicine can serve multiple purposes. Sometimes there’s a simple question that needs to be answered. Sometimes there is an emotional connection that will be made. Many times there is a transaction of information in which the patient must share. Data gathering, which often takes place in the form of history taking is extremely important.

Physicians and patients struggle with the exchange of information during the clinical exchange. Physicians are trained to think scientifically and to read patients like a book. Patients experience their symptoms in a linear fashion that is often noted to coincide with life events. Physicians become easily frustrated when patients share details that are often on the surface irrelevant to why they’ve come in.

When I’m working with a patient that’s having trouble relaying information, I will ask them to make observations about what their experiencing. This isn’t to be judgmental and it is definitely not to lay blame. But with a few gentle prompts, patients can start to make observations about their symptoms that are very helpful.

Dealing with addictive habits or self sabotage

Primary care physicians often act as health coaches. It is not unusual to offer more coaching advice rather than diagnosis. This can include inspirations to achieve a healthier lifestyle such as through nutrition or healthy movement.

Addictions and self-sabotaging behavior a much more common than most people realize. Patients often have a real struggle coming to groups with why they would return to a habit that’s hurting their bodies.

I have found that teaching patients about the power of observation and asking them to perform 90 seconds of observation before engaging in a destructive habit is extremely powerful. The instructions are simple. Before you pick up the cigarette set a timer for 90 seconds. During the 90 second seconds, observe how you feel prior to smoking. Then when the timer goes off observe if you wish to still smoke the cigarette, proceed with lighting the cigarette.

In the case of addiction, that observation period can often help the brain rewire itself and calm down the reward system in the brain.

Obervation to Empower

Traditionally the practice of medicine was based on a paternalistic model. This meant that the doctor gave orders to the patient that were accepted and never questioned. Times have changed. This is no longer an acceptable way to practice. Due to complexity of healthcare patients must participate in their own care.

Patients that have not felt empowered in most of their life will have a struggle with this. When it is time to make a decision about treatment options they may feel like throwing up their hands and want the physician to make the decision for them.

3 Ways Meditation Can Heal Burnout

Healing the 3 Pillars of Burnout

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy (1).

The topic of burnout has been growing and frequent in the healthcare industry for several years. Burnout doesn’t impact just doctors and nurses. Burnout is prevalent among teachers, where it can affect student test scores (2).

Any activity that is performed for a vocation can create burnout, particularly work that requires care of other humans. Work that can create burnout tends to be stressful, complex and likely requires specialized training.

3 Pillars of Burnout(1)

  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism
  • Feelings of Personal Inefficacy

What Causes Burnout?

Burnout is associated with jobs that are emotionally taxing.  This can include health care, educations and first responders. Work that is emotionally draining in combination with being technically difficult increase the risk of burnout.

The ultimate solution for Burnout Syndrome is to repair the systemic issues that lead to the condition. Because this is always possible, those working ins stressful environments should know how to help themselves.

3 Ways Meditation Can Help Burnout.

Meditation to Rest the Mind

Exhaustion is one of the pillars of burnout. This is best relieved with a break when feasible. And fortunately, many of the individuals suffering for burnout don’t have the luxury of taking time away from work.

Meditation and serve as a mini vacation. Even practicing for 5 minutes allows the brain to relax.

Use this video to meditate to release what no longer serves you. Use this for a 3 minute meditation break.

Meditation can allow the brain to take a break from mentally taxing efforts. Although 15-20minute sessions can do wonders, even 3 minutes of deep breathing can allow for the circuitry of the brain to cool off.

Gratitude Meditation to Heal Cynicism

One the most devastating effects burnout can have is that those in a healing profession will lose contact of the heart of what they are doing. These individuals will have trouble with empathy, which can lead to poor outcomes, particularly in patient care.

Gratitude can be used as a form of meditation. Keeping a Gratitude Journal is a way to help focus the attention on the positive aspects of life. Have a listen to teh above podcast to hear fomr of the benefits of a gratitude practice.

Self Compassion for Feeling Ineffective.

If a work environment is making employees ineffective, there’s likely multiple layers that are causing this problem. Unfortunately, any complex system requiring more than a few humans, is likely to be complex and fraught with error.

Mindfulness meditation reminds us to bring ourselves to the here and now. We were reminded to focus on what we have in the moment, which is the breath. Forming a real life meditation can help heal the feelings of being ineffective and unworthy.

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References

1.Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual review of psychology, 52, 397–422. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.397

2.

Daniel J. Madigan, Lisa E. Kim, Does teacher burnout affect students? A systematic review of its association with academic achievement and student-reported outcomes,
International Journal of Educational Research, Volume 105, 2021,101714, ISSN 0883-0355, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2020.101714.

7 Ways Becoming a Reiki Healer Creates Wellness

My original curiosity about Reiki was for for my own wellness regimen. I thought it would be nice to have a healing tool I could use on myself.

I completed the 21 days of self-healing and I felt better and I had in years.  I have come to appreciate that becoming a Reiki healer has healed me as much as my clients. I am now from believer that being a Reiki practitioner improves the mind and body of the Reiki practitioner as well as their clients.

Learning Reiki has created benefits beyond what I had expected. I would have never anticipated so many areas of my life to improve by learning Reiki.

Even if you don’t practice Reiki on others, here are the reasons that you will want to consider learning Reiki for your own Health and Wellness .

7 Reasons to Learn Reiki

Ability to Stay Grounded in the Present Moment

In order to get the energy flowing in Reiki, you must be able to quiet the mind and center the body. It is well known that Reiki healer’s absorb some of the healing energies of Reiki. This is likely because Reiki is a form of a mindfulness practice. There is a sense of peace and calm that occurs wile performing Reiki on oneself as well as others.

The overall affect if feeling very grounded and centered in the present moment. On of the Reiki precepts is “Do Not Worry”, and it is nearly impossible to worry during a Reiki Session.

When performing a Reiki session on myself or anyone else it is almost impossible not to become centered in the present moment. Even if my mind begins to drift the flowing energy quickly pulls me back to the present. After completing the session I typically feel wonderful.

Improve Relationships

All relationships are energy exchanges. Some relationships, like casual acquaintances or friendships are an exchanges of only a small amount of energy. Other relationships, such as romantic ties and family can involve large exchanges of energy.

Improving your own energy with the practice of Reiki can improve your relationships with others. Your ability to listen with your heart and soul will grow with every Reiki session you give yourself.

Setting Boundaries

Being able to set boundaries professionally, emotionally or in other ways is important to maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit. Having a personal practice such as Reiki has helped me in this way.

Being a busy primary care doctor, time is often a resource that is lacking. There is always a struggle between spending enough time with each patient while being respectful of the schedule and those that are waiting. I’m able to find gentle yet empathetic language to let patients know that although I want to hear what they have to say it’s simply not possible to spend hours with them.

Setting this boundary lets patient know I will honor their time with me, as I will honor time with each patient that comes.

Preventing Illness

My initial interest in learning Reiki was to prevent illness in myself. I am frequently exposed to infectious disease in my medical practice. I was very excited to have something in my toolkit that I could use in myself to prevent an infection. If I feel the early warnings of an infection I start using Reiki on myself for longer sessions. During the day it is not unusual for me to perform a 5-minute Reiki session for mental/emotional healing at lunch time. I frequently perform Reiki on myself at bedtime to help relax and to help with insomnia.

I have learned from my own body as I suspect many readers have learned that stress plays a role in pretty much any ailment I have. So I usually include Reiki anytime I’m feeling that I may become sick. I consider it one of my long-term disease prevention tools.

Becoming a Reiki Healer improves your communication

Listening with an open heart and a non-judgmental mind is a life skill that helps all of us. Unfortunately, so much of modern life trains us to communicate in a rapid pace, focusing more on our responses to the person rather than listening.

Reiki encourages a mindful state of being. Practicing Reiki oneself and others helps the healer quiet the mind. When the mind is quiet, it is much easier to listen during conversations.

Reiki practice can help heal judgmental thoughts. Judgments about a person or a situation can make communication difficult. When we try not to judge, and especially following the precept, “Do Not Get Angry”, we can communicate with others more effectively.

Increases Intuition

Many individuals are born with natural gifts. They may have psychic abilities which allow them access to information that is not normally available to the rest of us. This can include being able to see, here, feel things the rest of us cannot. This can also include increase empathy to the point that they’re able to sense others feelings (or being empathic).

My own intuition increased after Reiki I training. This blessing allowed me to sense what was going on with patients by making observations about their energy bodies in addition to there physical bodies.

This is a wonderful gift to have but please be aware that these are not always reliable. Using psychic abilities often requires you to be able to enter mindful state which can be difficult during busy times. It also takes practice. You need to be able to perform Reiki on yourself even briefly on a daily basis in order to engage these gifts.

Increase Awareness of Future Events

Training to become a Reiki Healer has been known to create a phenomenon individuals in which their psychic senses are opened up. I do not believe that this is a typical results. I do believe that having a quiet and calm mind opens the mind up so that information that is not normally available becomes available.

In my own life I’ve experienced an increased ability to predict future events. This goes with increased self-awareness as well as awareness of others around me. I would not say that this is an increased ability to be psychic. However I definitely can see how this would be possible especially in individuals that are naturally gifted.

I find that this ability to predict future events helps me most in my personal life and in my own health. Having the increase awareness of what’s driving my stress levels too high, what vibrations are bringing me down helps me to avoid events I may not want to be a part of.

Reiki Helps you Connect to Yourself

We all spend so much time communicating, taking in information and outputting information. Media images often shows us images of individuals that appear happier, healthier, wealthier, and overall thriving in life.

It can be difficult to sort out our own feelings of what is real and what seems real.

Practicing Reiki on yourself can help to reconnect you to who you are, and what your true heart desires are. Practicing on yourself and others can help you sort out what you need and you see around you.

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The 4 Health Benefits of Gratitude

Does gratitude do more than make you feel better?

Decreases a Rapid Heart Rate

“During the gratitude intervention, we observed decreased HR compared to the resentment intervention.”(1)

Palpitations are a common reson to come into the doctor’s office. Granted, palpitations could be a sign of something serious such as a dangerous cardiac arrhythmia. Oftentimes, palpitations aren’t related to any one specific illness. They are likely the result of chronic shallow breathing, chronic anxiety, and overall disengagement from the body.

This interesting study determined that having studied participants participate in a gratitude intervention, lowered heart rate is compared to focusing on a resentful activity.

What is interesting about this study is that the behavioral intervention starts off identically. They are meditative exercises in which the individuals are instructed to relax. The difference is that in the gratitude intervention the participants were encouraged to focus on gratitude while in the resentment intervention the participants were encouraged to think of things that make them angry or upset. They were purposely encouraged to ruminate  negative thoughts and emotions.

Here is the example of the interventions used in the study. I tried an abbreviated version on myself. I noted that I felt worse doing the resentment intervention as well. I felt short of breath during and after the resentment exercise.

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-05520-9

How many of us do this on a regular basis? Reading the study I became fascinated with my own thoughts. I soon notice that when I think thoughts of reason I do feel more tension in my chest and upper back. When I think thoughts of gratitude I noticed my energy improves and my pulse seems to come down.

Eases Depression

“Gratitude may be beneficial for improving psychological health in individuals with IBD or arthritis.”(2)

Depression is a serious disease that must be managed just as any other chronic disease such as cancer or diabetes. Diseases linked to chronic inflammation, such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease

Cools the Fire of Inflammation

“Patients expressing more gratitude also ha[ve] lower levels of the inflammatory biomarker index” (3)

Soothes Chronic Pain

“Patients with knee/hip OA who receive care at a major academic VA medical center, we found that a six-week intervention focused on building positive psychological skills such as gratitude and kindness significantly reduced OA symptom severity and improved measures of well-being. ” (4)

References

1 .Kyeong, S., Kim, J., Kim, D. J., Kim, H. E., & Kim, J. J. (2017). Effects of gratitude meditation on neural network functional connectivity and brain-heart coupling. Scientific reports, 7(1), 5058. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-05520-9

2. Sirois, F. M., & Wood, A. M. (2017). Gratitude uniquely predicts lower depression in chronic illness populations: A longitudinal study of inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 36(2), 122–132. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0000436

3. Mills, P. J., Redwine, L., Wilson, K., Pung, M. A., Chinh, K., Greenberg, B. H., Lunde, O., Maisel, A., Raisinghani, A., Wood, A., & Chopra, D. (2015). The Role of Gratitude in Spiritual Well-being in Asymptomatic Heart Failure Patients. Spirituality in clinical practice (Washington, D.C.), 2(1), 5–17. https://doi.org/10.1037/scp0000050

4. Hausmann, L., Youk, A., Kwoh, C. K., Ibrahim, S. A., Hannon, M. J., Weiner, D. K., Gallagher, R. M., & Parks, A. (2017). Testing a Positive Psychological Intervention for Osteoarthritis. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.), 18(10), 1908–1920. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnx141

3 Ways to Reduce Anxiety

Three ways you can lower anxiety in a few minutes

Most people don’t become aware of their anxiety until they have a severe symptoms. What most people don’t realize is that well before the sentinel event of anxiety that makes most people reach out for help, there were symptoms leading up to it that may have been going off for weeks or months.

Although all anxiety requires medical attention, there are things you can do for yourself to lower your anxiety in a few minutes.

The following the tips I wish the share. Having experienced anxiety myself, I wished I had had these exercises to help prevent my first anxiety attack.

Grounding

Grounding is a term used frequently in the holistic and metaphysical realm. It involves visualizing your biofield and bringing the excessive energy down to your legs and feet. Grounding exercises can be done at any time, even if you’re busy doing something else. The idea is simply to help with worry thoughts and create an energy pathway to take all that excess energy out of the head and into the legs and feet which is calming.
Download a free copy of the ebook 9 ways to ground your energy.

Have a listen to the podcast Understanding Anxiety

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Inhale and Exhale

It’s that simple. Taking a deep breath in and exhaling out of your mouth it’s one of the fastest ways you can decrease your own anxiety

One of my personal favorite mediation and mindfulness techniques is the Ujjayi Breath. This is a Yoga breathing technique that is easy to perform and can be done at any time of day.

Here are the steps:

  1. Take in a deep breath through your nose, filling up your belly and chest
  2. Exhale through your nose, with your mouth closed. Slightly constrict the back of your throat, which will create a hissing sound. This slows down your exhale.
  3. Repeat the cycle

You can try Ujjayi breath for one minute initially.  You may want to try checking your pulse, then doing a round of Ujjayi breath for a minute then checking your pulse again.  Notice any difference?

Meditate

There are many ways you can use meditation to reduce your anxiety. I have created a short meditation you can use to transmute worry thoughts and positivity.

Want to try a meditation to channel negative emotions? Click here

Tap it Out

Eft, also known as the emotional freedom technique, is a healing modality that is gaining popularity. EFT involves repeatedly tapping acupressure points which has been clinically shown to remodel the brain and create immediate as well as long-lasting changes.
You can use tapping on what’s called the quote karate chop points quote in which you will rapidly but gently tap the outside of each hand together while taking deep breaths.
There are many wonderful online resources for tapping that you may want to check out here
The Tapping Solution

Can Meditation Heal Anxiety?

While you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack it’s very hard to think clearly. But if you are managing anxiety, or trying to prevent anxiety from getting much worse, is it possible for meditation to heal anxiety? If so, how is this best accomplished?

When you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack, there’s probably nothing more upsetting than someone telling you to just calm down.

Believe me, I definitely understand. My first anxiety attack was like a force of nature.  I can recall the physical feelings of doom, feeling a need to run, my vision narrowing and not being able to breath.  

What is Anxiety?

It helps to have an understanding of the difference between feeling anxious, having a diagnosis such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or phobias.

Check out the podcast, Understanding Anxiety

It is typical in the everyday human experience to feel anxious. You’ve likely experienced anxiety even today. You may be feeling some anxiety right now as you read this blog post. The feeling of anxiety is simply an emotion associated with worry about future past or present events

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

You begin to think of anxiety as being a chronic condition and possibly a medical condition when the symptoms are pervasive and present for more than 6 months.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Excessive Worry
  • Worrying about many different things
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains related to muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Disrupted Sleep(Combs 2014)

Panic Disorder

Likely one of the worst consequences of chronic anxiety is panic. This is the experience that many of us call a “panic attack”.

Panic Attacks are very individual but usually start with hyperventilation, palpitations, dilated pupils, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting or even diarrhea. These events are the end result of a chemical cascade in which the fight or flight symptom has been activated in the body.

If you have been anxious or worried for several hours or days at a time, your endocrine system has been getting a signal from your brain stem that a threat is coming. At some point either your brain perceives the threat has finally arrived, or it’s simply can’t take the stress anymore and your adrenal glands release a large amount of adrenaline. This adrenaline hits your system and does its job in getting your body ready for a fight. The physiologic changes that occur during a panic attack are all a result of the adrenal glands doing what they were designed to do.

Phobias

Phobias I point out because they often can present as generalized anxiety. Phobias are generally going to be anxiety that is associated with a specific stimulus which can be an event, a place, an object, or generally something that is external to the body.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is anxiety symptoms that stem form intrusive, often disturbing thoughts. Individuals suffering from OCD often have rituals, or actions they do to relieve the stress caused by the obsessive thoughts.

Meditating to Heal Anxiety

It is difficult to consider sitting still and breathing if you are in the state of anxiety. Particularly, if you have gotten used to being in thoughts of worry constantly it goes against your feelings to sit still and quiet. I advise my own patients that they should always try meditation if they have been diagnosed with anxiety or want to prevent anxiety.

Read more about Anxiety here

Using meditation to heal your anxiety will also help with medications.

Which meditations to do for anxiety

Any of them!

There are many different styles of meditation. Beginners often do well performing guided meditations. These are meditation in which an instructor offers visualization, instructions on breath, and other tools that can help focus the mind and calm the body. Guided meditations often take an additional resource.

Luckily in the age of cell phone apps, there are so many to pick from. Here are my recommendations:

  • Inside timer
  • Relax melodies

Mindfulness meditation is a style of meditation in which you attempt to quiet the thinking mind. I am studying to be a certified mindfulness meditation instructor. I have found this process endlessly fascinating and have found in my own meditation practice I no longer want guidance and I prefer now to meditate in silence for 20 minutes.

You can easily perform mindfulness meditation by focusing on your breath for 3 to 5 minutes. And that’s it!

Walking Meditation

This is also my new favorite. Walking meditation is just what it sounds like. Rather than performing your meditation while at rest or lying down you walk. I’ve come to rely on this when I want to move my body but don’t have time to exercise and meditate.

Mantra Meditation

Mantra meditation is using an inspirational phrase or saying to focus the attention. You use your inspirational saying over and over, either chanting it out loud or thinking it in your mind during your meditation.  

Ready to start your journey? Pick up a copy of 21-Day Meditation Journey Today.

Meditation is a journey. Anxiety can be a journey as well. And maybe helpful to visualize anxiety is a journey to yourself. Please embrace every way along the process. And make attempts to return to yourself and meditation as much as you can.

References
  1. Combs, H.,Markman, J. Anxiety Disorders in Primary Care. In: Pagalilauan G, Editor. 2014. Psychiatric Diagnosis and Management in Primary Care. Seattle (WA): Medical Clinics of North America.

Using Your words to Heal Your Body

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In his seminal work, The Hidden Messages in Water, Masura Emoto created a special technique to demonstrate the effects various words have on the formation of water crystals. The water was exposed to words by speaking to the water. Then the water was frozen. Crystals were examined and photographed under a microscope.

Emoto discovered that when the water was exposed to positive words such as “love”, “hope”, or “thank you” symmetric beautiful crystals formed. If the water was exposed to words of hatred, either no crystals formed or crystals that were of a regular shape form.

Credit:  https://www.masaru-emoto.net/en/crystal-2

This is an example of a crystal that was shown the words love and gratitude. Notice it’s very symmetrical and overall very beautiful.

Source: Emoto, M. (2001). Hidden messages in water. Atria. 

It is easy to see from these pictures that using words with a high vibration lead to beautiful well-form crystals. Using words that are low vibration lead to no formed crystals or something that’s not as attractive.

In his work, Emoto reminds us that we’re made of 70% of water. His theory is that water holds a memory of the environment in the energy has received.

Then that means what happens to the water in our body when it’s exposed to violence, words of anger, anything that is less than love?

Choose Your Words For Healing

If you think about your body being made mostly of water that is constantly interacting with your environment, this helps you to refrain how you approach your mind body and soul. On your own healing journey, how do you speak to yourself? Do you use words of kindness to yourself? Or are you having thoughts that constantly lower your vibration because they are less than love?

Healing Words

In my book, 21 Day Meditation Journey, one of the meditations captures the idea of using healing words. During the meditation, we created positive affirmations.

You can get started with this right now. In my own person practice, when I feel my thoughts becoming negative, I replace those thoughts with positive thoughts. Even if I don’t feel the thoughts, I notice a difference within a few minutes.

Positive Affirmations for Healing

  • “I provide love for myself and others”
  • “I am God’s Creation”
  • “I am as I am meant to be”

Create your own list of positive affirmations. Make it fun! Make a wallpaper on your cell phone, or your computer screen.

Programming your thoughts for positive will change the vibration in your body. It would not be good to carry the negative words in the water in your body.

You can use your words to heal yourself. Its so simple, yet effective. Even if you have to “fake it”, do it until you feel how your positive thoughts change your vibration.

Download a free copy of “9 Ways to Ground your Energy”

This free Ebook is a great way to ground your energy and feel better right away.