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Jane Bolton Psy.D., M.F.T.,
Jane Bolton Psy.D., M.F.T.,

Increase Self Esteem and Relationship Satisfaction with Yawning?

Discover one of the best kept secrets in neuroscience

I know I say it over and over, but it still remains true: our self esteem is due, in part, to how well we are able to regulate our own feelings. And how well we regulate our own feelings affects our relationships. And the solidity of our relationships affects our self esteem. You can see there is one big cycle of influences.

With that in mind, I'd like to pass along one of the breakthrough neurologic discoveries for enhancing inner calmness and self regulation. And that discovery is the practice of purposeful deep yawning.

Do you think that when someone yawns they are bored or disinterested? Think again. Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, M.D. and therapist Mark Robert Waldman write about the usefulness of yawning in How God changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist. They even call yawning "one of the best kept secrets in neuroscience.'

The Theory
Yawning helps reduce anger, anxiety and stress. It can be used for calmness when in a conflictual situation with another person, and helps with a difficult problem. It has been used for decades for reducing performance anxiety. Yawning enhances awareness, calmness, alertness and bodily relaxation. In fact, it only takes a minute to relax you physiologically.
Newberg and Waldman discuss the various neurochemicals that are involved with yawning, noting that they "regulate pleasure, sensuality, and relationship bonding between individuals, so if you want to enhance your intimacy and stay together, yawn together."

How To Practice Deep Yawning

1. Set aside a specific time to practice the yawning. That trains the brain to get into a habit of deep relaxation, and studies show that the regularity produces the most benefits. Setting an alarm clock can be helpful.

2. Know that your brain will probably give you resistance. That's normal. But don't let the resistance rule.

3. Stand up in a place where you are comfortable and won't be disturbed by others. Standing gives you possibility of a fuller inhalation than sitting.

4. Open you mouth as wide as you can and take a very deep breath. As you exhale, make an extended sigh. Keep doing it, even if you don't feel like yawning. Fake it. Usually by the fifth or sixth fake yawn a real one appears.

5. Notice what goes on in your mouth, eyes, throat, chest, and belly.

6. Go for a dozen to fifteen yawns with a few seconds between each one. All together, it can take around two minutes.

Discover for yourself what happens as you practice yawning. Let me know the results you have.

About the Author
Jane Bolton Psy.D., M.F.T.,

Jane Bolton, Psy.D., M.F.T., is a supervising and training analyst and adjunct professor at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles.