Recently, I've spoken to several different lawyers' groups about ways to improve well-being. I always share the benefits of meditation in managing stress, anxiety, and depression. Invariably, some folks are skeptical of their ability to begin a meditation practice. It sounds daunting to try to carve out time each day to sit quietly and still the mind. I often respond by suggesting that they start by simply lengthening their inhales and exhales a couple of times a day. We can do this while sitting in traffic, taking a shower, waiting for a meeting to start - virtually anytime.
A New York Times article recently highlighted how this very simple practice can produce dramatic results. Researchers have found that controlled breathing tells the brain to turn up the parasympathetic nervous system (which slows the heart rate and promotes feelings of calm) and turn down the sympathetic nervous system (which releases the stress hormone cortisol and prepares us for fight or flight). Put simply, controlled breathing reduces stress. Less stress leads to reduced anxiety and depression. Ready to see for yourself? Check out the three breathing exercises described at the end of the article.