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Mindful Power Breath Can Stop Negativity in 12 Seconds

A simple practice may transform your body's epigenetic programming and thoughts.

Key points

  • Research shows that breathing may have the ability to change your body's genetic instructions.
  • Breathing can turn your attention away from anxiety and negativity.
  • Integrating breath and affirmation can help supercharge positivity.

What is a "power breath" you ask? And how can it transform that frown emoji face that all of us fall into because of stress, anxiety and rumination?

We'll get to that in a moment. First, let's talk about the science of how breathing affects your body's genetic instructions. You have the hard-wiring, the genome, which is like the computer hardware that tells your cells what to do. But you also have the epigenome, which is translated as meaning "above" the genome—and which is like the software that can make changes in the body's programming.

Stuart Miles/Free Digital Photos
Turn that frown upside down!
Source: Stuart Miles/Free Digital Photos

Herbert Benson was one of the pioneers in mind-body medicine. He identified the body's relaxation response, which was activated by diaphragmatic breathing and slowed everything down.

Recent research showed that individuals who practiced meditation had changes in 172 genes that regulate everything from inflammation and glucose metabolism to blood pressure and even circadian rhythms.

That's why I'm calling the practice below a "power breath." It actually has the power to transform your body's genetic instructions.

In response to the study, Herbert Benson said, "This is a major step to overcome the innate bias that has developed in medicine over the last hundred years. Breaking the train of everyday thought has a medical application."

Not only does breathing have a profound effect on the body, but when you focus on the breath, your awareness turns away from negativity and anxiety. So, in essence, you're engaging a potent two-fold practice that turns negative thinking on its head!

How Was This "Secret" Power Breath Developed?

Too often, when we are taught something, we try to use it just as we learn it. Cookbook recipes, for example, don't tell you to change those recipes! They've tried them, and they work. But the beauty of innovation is that it mixes and matches; it integrates things in fresh and innovative ways.

I've taught mindful breathing meditation for many years. I've also practiced and shared the loving kindness meditation that was taught to me by a well-known, elder Burmese monk, the Venerable U. Silananda in the monastery. As I got to know him, I learned that the loving kindness practice was his favorite teaching. (Maybe that's why he was so kind and available to all his students or anyone in need of assistance.)

But no one really brought breathing and loving kindness together. One day, I wondered how these two affirming practices could be seamlessly integrated in a fast, but effective way. What I developed was a 12-Second Power Breath that not only activated the body's relaxation response, but simultaneously turned on feelings of safety, security, openness and trust.

Instead of explaining the entire loving kindness meditation here, you're going to be using an abbreviated form of it. Best of all, it's completely portable, so you can use it anytime and anywhere you need an instant boost of positivity.

3-Step Power Breath for Overcoming Negativity in 12-Seconds

1. Choose a "loving kindness" word that would help you right now.

There are a lot of phrases and words found in the loving kindness meditation, such as "well," "happy," "safe," and "peaceful." For the purposes of this practice, however, I want you to expand your loving kindness vocabulary and think about other words that express what might help you in this moment. This means words such as, "acceptance," "love," "forgiveness," "trust," "respect," "patience," "compassion," etc.

Reflect for a moment, then choose the word that you will bring within.

2. Inhale your loving kindness word for the count of four.

As you inhale slowly, on the count of four, mentally state your wish for yourself, such as: "May I be loved," "May I be peaceful," or "May I be happy," etc. Picture this deep wish being absorbed throughout your entire body and being.

Hold this breath for four counts.

3. Exhale your loving kindness word, sending it out to others.

As you exhale slowly, on the count of four, mentally send your word out to others. For example, you might say, "May others be loved," "May others be peaceful," or "May others be happy," etc. Picture this deep wish pulsating outwards into your home, the community, the world, and even the universe.

How beautiful! In 12 seconds you have sent a calming and affirming word inward and outward. This practice reminds us of how connected we are with others. For a more detailed loving kindness practice, the book Simply Mindful includes detailed loving kindness meditation practices and other daily rituals for finding peace, clarity, and simplicity each day.

Use this practice the next time you're stuck in traffic or in a long line at the grocery store. As you send your loving kindness word to yourself and others, it helps soften our hardness with the compassionate understanding that we're all stuck in this line together!