Unfortunately my health is currently somewhat compromised, in part because I failed to control my nervous system effectively. In particular, the activity of my sympathetic nervous system concerns me – in other words: I’m experiencing too much stress. Ideally, I should be able to remain in the state of parasympathetic dominance by default and at will in all possible situations. One of the best guides for achieving that goal is the following: Six Ways to Hack Your Nervous System To Consciously Manage Stress by Dave Asprey.
I’ve tried the One Minute Breath technique mentioned there. Then I used a modified version with 10 seconds inhalation, 30 seconds breath holding, and 20 seconds exhalation. I prefer that version a lot, since exhalation is correlated with parasympathetic activation. It also feels slightly better. Finally I experimentally increased the breath holding period to 50 seconds, but that was uncomfortably extreme, so I didn’t do than one such breath cycle. While this technique seems to have some quick effect, using it for longer durations doesn’t feel like it’s doing very much.
There are some words of caution about such breathing techniques from the experts on my favourite breathing technique: The Buteyko method – whose purpose it is to maximize CO2 concentration in the blood by extending natural breath cycle duration and transitioning to shallow breathing: Benefits of Pranayama: Only If You Extend Cycles and Breathe Less. The Buteyko method was developed through scientific analysis of Pranayama yoga, though.
Breathing techniques are deceptively simple, but can have extraordinary health effects. At the moment I am a bit conflicted about what to optimize for: Quick effects like with conscious breathing exercises or sustained changed with the Buteyko method. As long as I’m reducing my breathing frequency, I guess doing both would be ok (although not optimal from Buteyko proponents).
I’m doing 20 minutes of meditation every morning. It’s very helpful. But it’s still challenging for me to do it the right way without getting distracted by thoughts. Certainly need to continue working on that.
Autogenic training is a set of techniques that are somewhat similar to meditation, but more focused on controlling the body, rather than the mind:
It’s certainly an interesting option that I tried out briefly, but it didn’t stick with me.
What do you do?
Come on, you should aim to become the best version of yourself. So, you should also strive to being able to control your nervous system, so that it doesn’t sabotage you.