This week, this month (this year?) has been a wild, anxiety-inducing ride. I’ve noticed myself falling back into an old and very uncomfortable pattern: checking every 15 minutes to find out if something new and alarming has happened. Have there been any new developments? Any news? Any updates?
I happen to live in the California wine country, where on top of everything else that is going on in this crazy year, there are wildfires. Of course I’m feeling anxiety! Who isn’t?
But honestly, constantly scrolling the Breaking News isn’t helping. It’s only feeding my anxiety monster. And anxiety only pretends to be useful. It doesn’t really help me to be prepared or to handle reality, and it sure doesn’t feel healthy. It kinda hurts, physically.
As soon as I recognize this pattern, I know what to prescribe for myself. Color Breathing, stat! Color breathing combines the benefits of breath work, mindfulness, visualization and Color Thinking into one quick exercise.
How to Color Breathe
Start by closing your eyes and visualizing a pale peaceful color in your mind’s eye. I like to use pale blue, but you can substitute with anything you’d like.
Visualize the pale blue coming into your body as you breathe in, and a darker blue leaving your body, taking the shadowy anxiety with it.
Take a couple of deep breaths like this, breathing in for four beats, then out for four beats.
Now flow into square color breathing:
- Hold for 4 slow beats, and visualize gathering the pale blue.
- Inhale for 4 slow beats, breathing in the pure, pale blue.
- Hold the breath for 4 beats while you visualize the color flowing through your body
- Exhale the darker blue over 4 beats, letting the color take your anxiety with it.
Repeat 4 times – or more!
Why Color Breathing works
In case you’re skeptical because think that this is all just some yoga woo-woo magical stuff (uh, and what’s your point?) – let me give you a little of the science behind color breathing, but in non-technical language.
- It’s a pattern interrupt. While you are thinking about breathing, you stop thinking anxious thoughts, and your brain stops with all the stress hormones.
- Deep breathing increases the CO2 in your bloodstream, so you immediately feel more calm and peaceful.
- You are giving your brain, your breathing and your thoughts a different pattern to follow – a rhythm, a 4/4 flow as you are counting.
- You are using color to soothe and calm you with the non-verbal support (emotions, intuition, sensations).
Try it. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to quickly shift out of your anxiety into a calmer, more focused frame of mind.
I know that it works: as I was writing this my iWatch dinged, and I didn’t even feel the need to find out why!
In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!
Maggie Huffman is a success coach and author in the California wine country. She’s the founder of The Rainbow Onion and Color Thinking. Sign up for her free weekly newsletter with Color Thinking tips, sent out every Thursday.