If you are feeling anxious, your breathing will become shallow. However, once you notice this you can change things. You can change your feelings with your breath. Breathe in slowly and calmly and deeply and you will start to feel better. Intentionally shift from shallow breathing to deep breathing and your mood will shift. You have control.
We have control over depression too. When we are depressed, we tend to eat a lot of “comfort food” that is high in carbohydrates. Bread, desserts, potatoes, pasta – you know the routine. We also tend to not exercise. Sadly, this is a terrible cycle – we feel bad, so we eat more of the things that we think will make us feel good, but they actually make us feel bad. We take time off from exercising because we just don’t feel like it, then we feel worse.
Just like with anxious feelings and breathing, you can turn around depression by eating better and exercising.
Sometimes I wonder what causes what. Are we not mindful about our breathing so we start to breathe shallowly, then we feel anxious? Or is it that we feel anxious and then we breathe shallowly? Do we slack on eating well and exercising and then we feel depressed? Or do we feel depressed and then sink lower because we start to eat badly and stop exercising?
Does it matter, if we have this key? We can improve our moods by being mindful. We have control. We no longer have to suffer the randomness of our emotions.
You don’t have to do anything complicated. Go for a walk. You don’t have to go on a run. And the walk doesn’t have to be long – twenty minutes is good. Can’t do twenty? Then do 10. Now, don’t think you can get away with five – that’s cheating. What you put into it is what you get out of it.
I know people who say that they don’t have a safe place to walk. Walk inside your house. Walk around the kitchen. Walk down the hallway and back. Then when you feel brave, go outside and walk to the mailbox. And back. And back to the mailbox. And back to the door. This trick also works for those people who think they don’t have the strength to walk a long distance and are afraid of getting stranded out far away from their houses. I know a lot of people who think this way. Another option is to drive to a large public place – the hardware store is one of my favorite suggestions. Use their large area and air conditioning to walk. No gym membership needed!
Your body isn’t a car. Well, it is, kind of. It is a machine, albeit an electrochemical one. It is a vehicle for your soul. And you need to put good fuel into it if you want to get anywhere. But you don’t really run out of gas. You may get tired, and if that happens, just slow down and wait until you feel better. You’ll get stronger for the next time. Soon you’ll surprise yourself.
We are so good at making excuses for why we can’t take care of ourselves. Trust me; taking care of your body is a great investment. It is all you have. It is more important than your car or your house or your neighborhood. It is where you live, in the deepest sense. Make it strong.
Eat more vegetables and less meat. Skip the fried stuff. Drop sodas and go for water. Try to go for natural, unprocessed food. Sadly, this is really hard because we’ve been taught that food comes in little packets with writing on it. Rather than eating an energy bar, have an apple and some almonds. Try something organic. Go for colorful food – green, red, yellow – let your eyes be delighted by a rainbow of food.
Sure, there is a lot of fear in changing. And your mind try to trick you – you’ll think you want to eat whatever you want and not exercise. This is your inner two-year-old saying “NO! You can’t tell me what to do!” Tell it to shut up. Two year olds aren’t known for making good decisions.
Don’t be at the mercy of your cravings. They aren’t real. You don’t need a soda. You don’t need pizza. You don’t need a candy bar. You don’t need fried chicken. You think you want them – but they all leave you feeling flat. Deep down you know this.
They are like a bad boyfriend, all flash and pizzazz, but no substance. And just like with the bad boyfriend, you think you are being a rebel by hanging out with him. Really, he’s no good for you.