10 minutes of gratitude to balance vanlife stress

Discomfort is the sweet spot. It’s how I grow best. I love bumpy roads, down pours, sweating and even breakdowns. I love the stimulation and excitement of living in a van. But it must be balanced. Chronic discomfort aka chronic stress leads to burnout, and I’ve been there a few times. 

One of the most powerful ways I know to shift stress is the practice of Gratitude. Gratitude is my superpower. It shifts me into a state with profound physiological effects known as heart rate coherence. In this state I experience positive emotions and improved cognitive function. I make better decisions and feel more connected.

Here is my 10 minute gratitude practice that brings attention to breath and abundance.

  1. Get comfortable. Standing is okay but sitting or laying down is best. Prop a pillow beneath your back and neck to assist in opening the little muscles between your ribs known as intercostal muscles, essential for full breaths. 
  2. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice where it expands and contracts. Notice how you feel.
  3. Now bring your attention to your belly. Maybe place a pillow or your hands on your belly to heighten awareness.
  4. Gently guide your breath to expand your belly on inhale and contract passively on an exhale.
  5. Can you breath 6 seconds inhalation and 6 seconds exhalation? Breath smoothly and gently, with only your belly moving. We often over-breathe, thinking that breath practice must be full and audible breaths. In actuality, unless we are breathing very long breaths (like 30 seconds inhalation, 30 seconds exhalation), if we breath deep we are causing hyperventilation, and without the balance of HYPOventilation, we are increasing levels of stress. It’s best to breath gently and LESS is more.
  6. Once your belly breathing is quiet and steady bring your attention to something you are grateful for. Go with what intuitively comes to mind.
  7. Can you see what you are grateful for? Feel it? Smell it? Taste it? Move through your sense channels, imagining what you are grateful for. If your breath shifts, allow it.
  8. Take one full breath, expanding your belly and chest, like a wave, and then exhale complete. Let everything go.
  9. Consider a gratitude journal to ground your experience and help support your brain as you create new pathways for gratitude.

To learn more about the benefits of positive emotions like gratitude, and the state called heart rate coherence, check out heartmath.com. I also occasionally use an app called HeartRate Coherence for biofeedback.

A big thanks to our friends at Life Is Good for supporting this post.



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