If you google who is the ‘Happiest Man in the World’, you will come up with this name: Matthieu Ricard. Although he got a Phd in molecular genetics in 1972, he decided to forego his scientific career to move to the Himalaya and become a Buddhist Monk.
But what makes him so happy? Scientists measured his brain to find out. He participated in a 12-year brain study on meditation and compassion led by Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin. Davidson hooked up Matthieu Ricard’s head to 256 sensors to observe what happened when he meditated.
Have you ever thought about how many breaths you take in a year?
Of course there are many varying factors but the average person (at rest) takes about 23,340 breaths a day.
Let’s take a closer look, based on the average person taking around:
16 breaths per minute
960 breaths per hour
23, 340 breaths a day
8,409,600 breaths a year
Wow! That’s 8,409,600 breaths a year.
Now, you can multiply this number by how old you are right now.
Eg: 8,409,600 X 40 = 336,384,000
Now, may I ask you another question. How many of those breaths have you actually noticed? Or how many did you even notice in the last hour?
It is totally normal for us to form an ‘autopilot mode’ around our breathing and it is something we can definitely take for granted.
It is not until we pay full attention to our breath that we notice that each and every breath we take is completely unique and precious. In fact, no two breaths are ever exactly the same.
When we practice ‘mindful breathing’ or meditation we pay deliberate attention to our breath and we notice the full experience of breathing. You notice the depth, texture, temperature, pace and so on. When we do this we are instantly bought into the present moment.
Obviously, when we are stressed our heart rate increases and our breathing becomes more shallow and rapid, and sometimes we even hold our breath. The more we can notice this and return back to our natural state of breathing the better we get at controlling our response to stress.
Next time you start feeling stressed or you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed just simply take 3 mindful breaths deep into your belly and this will send messages to your mind and body that there is no threat and you will instantly calm down.
Check out this short video to learn a technique, which will instantly help take you out of the stress response and calm you into the relaxation response.
Just remember the breath is so powerful and you can always use it as anchor to keep you grounded into the present moment.
Try it now.