On Deep Breaths + Letting Go
I recently shared the above picture taken on my 35th birthday, and someone asked if I had any advice for 30 year olds. First off, in no way shape or form would I ever consider myself an expert at doing this whole life thing, but I took a moment and thought asked myself if I had any advice. I answered, "Let that shit go + breathe deeper."
Again, I don't have it all figured out. I don't think I've gleamed any sort of secret to life that others don't have access to. I just try and do the best I can, choose kindness and love over fear and anger and make gratitude and forgiveness a daily practice. I can think of numerous times in the past where letting go and taking deep breaths has really saved me a whole lot of pain and discomfort. Like the time I ended a long night of fighting by pausing. Or the time Lia shared a lesson with Jenny about deep breathing.
Just Monday night Jenny + I were talking about when we're in a disagreement, or even in a heated argument that I don't chase after her right away when she leaves the room. Or if she leaves the house angry, I don't call/text right away. It's not because I want her to go or I don't want to make up. It's because in the heat of the moment, I want to take back the reins from the irrational side of my brain. I want to move through all the horrible, terrible things I would say if I tried to communicate while still taken over by my amygdala, and communicate from a place of love.
The key is found in how does one move from letting the amygdala control our brain to functioning from the pre-frontal cortex. I once read that when our fight or flight mechanisms are in control it's like there's a fire going off in our brain. And we need to put the fires out so we can think/act from a calmer state (you can thank Goldie Hawn and her amazing book, 10 Mindful Minutes, for that analogy). To put the fires out, you simply pause and focus on your breath.
The trick is making the conscious decision to slow down and take deep breaths, though. It's so much easier to just say the mean and hurtful things. It's so much easier to want to 'win' the argument. It's so much easier to shout and be loud to get your point across. And that's where letting go comes in.
I've found over and over again, the times when I let go of the need to win and be in control, the tough situations end a lot sooner and with way less hurt involved. Yes, in life, my feelings are going to be hurt. I'm going to feel left out, or that people I love are prioritizing other things over what I want or consider priority. There are times in my life I'm going to be upset. If I choose to act when those types of thoughts are running through my head, it will most likely end up in a drawn out fight/argument where everyone involved is on a downward spiral to worse than before.
Here's where it comes full circle. By pausing for a few minutes and choosing to focus on my breath, it becomes easier to let go of the need to control, to win, to hurt another. By taking those few moments and not going right after Jenny or making that call in anger or sending that text out of the need to be right, I can listen to all the fear based and angry thoughts running through my head and move to a place where I'm confident enough to tell that part of my brain I don't want to live my life like that. I can say all those things to myself, before engaging withy my loved ones or the offending party, so that when I do engage back in the conversation, I can do so from a calmer state with the pre frontal cortex in charge.
I still slip up at times. I still say things out of anger. I still hurt others. I'm not perfect. It is darn hard to pause in the heat of the moment. It's hard to remove yourself from the situation. It's hard to let go of the need to be right. It's hard to let go of the need to win. But, to me, one of the main reasons Jenny + I work, as a couple, as parents, as business partners, is because we can take these pauses (deep breaths), let go and re-engage from a calmer mindset. Like most things in life that are worth doing, it takes hard work, commitment and love.
My wish for you is that the next time you find yourself in a situation where your anger is starting to take hold of your brain...your muscles are tightening and your blood pressure is rising and you just want to hurt another...my wish is for you to pause for 2-5 minutes. Take deep breaths and see if it's easier to let go of whatever it is that set you off in the first place. I can tell you from first hand experience, my life is infinitely better the more I practice breathing deep and letting go.