The beauty of this ritual is that it can be done anytime, anywhere! The next time you realize that stress is starting to negatively impact your ability to show up to life, I invite you to try these 4 simple steps:
1. Take off your footwear and feel your feet on the ground.
If you can find a patch of earth to stand on, even better. As you stand close your eyes and feel your connection to the earth underneath you. Feel a sense of support, of being grounded in the present moment.
Studies have shown that reconnecting our body to the earth’s surface electrons can actually have a really positive impact on our well-being, including improved quality of sleep as well as reduced pain and stress.
As you inhale slowly imagine that you are drawing up energy from the earth through your feet and this energy is calming and connecting life force energy. As you exhale slowly, imagine that you are releasing any stress or anxious energy through the bottoms of your feet. Breathe through this visualization for at least 10 breaths.
Studies show that slow and intentional breathing has profound effects on regulating our nervous system. It’s psychological effects include increased relaxation, decreased anxiety and irritability. By incorporating visualization into the practice, this gives you something to mentally focus on while your body returns to equilibrium.
3. Shake it Out.
You might put on a song and dance. If that isn’t accessible given your circumstances then literally shake: shake one arm and then the other, shake out one leg and then the other, stomp it out, move your whole body in whatever way feels natural for you.
In studying the nervous systems of animals, Dr. Peter Levine noted that they discharge stress and shock by shaking their bodies. As a result, although they undergo threats, they do not carry stress/experience trauma. By allowing your body to move in an intuitive way, you help your nervous system to discharge the stress that accumulates in the body over time.
4. Practice Gratitude.
List three things you feel grateful. When we are stressed it’s very easy to lose sight of the positive. Bringing ourselves back to a place of gratitude helps build our resilience to stress by shifting our perspective and helping us to see the bigger picture when stress starts to narrow our vision.
They recently did a study at UC San Diego on patients suffering from congestive heart failure. After six weeks of a daily gratitude journal practice they found marked improvements in the patients ventricle function. In other words, the more grateful you are (thus the more open your heart) the better your heart pumps blood!