I recently watched a video called “Just Breathe”.
The video, just short of 4 minutes told me breathing was an effective mechanism for coping with anger.
I sat through the whole thing, completely inspired.
There were no explanations, there was no science of the physiology, biology or psychology behind breathing. There was no evidence from studies, no statistics to back up any claims, in fact there really wasn’t much of a claim at all. Yet despite this, I have never been so convinced, and so inspired by such a simple message.
We all know how anger feels. In fact, it is because we know how it feels that we recognise the emotion which these children describe. Certainly, most adults would like to think they handle or react to anger differently to children, but it is clear from the childrens’ honest accounts that this emotion doesn’t change with age.
“It can start hurting”
“You’re blood starts pumping”
“When your body can’t really control yourself, mad just takes over your body”
One articulate young lady talks of the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. I’m hoping someone had literally just explained those to her before turning on the camera, because even I have to confess to having to look them up in my old text books. One imagines the use of a child explaining something it is likely she doesn’t understand serves as an emphasising juxtaposition between our awareness and our understanding; we can understand our emotions often only when we are not currently experiencing them ourselves.
But the best description by far comes from a sweet child who describes anger as like a jar of glitter that’s been stirred up. The jar is the brain and the glitter represents your thoughts, whirring. You have no time to think and are unable to control or focus on individual thought. A simple image, but effective. The simplest messages are often the most important.
Imagine an angry child in front of you now.
What would you say to this child?
What do you do when people tell you to calm down? Be honest now!
So that didn’t work.
What one thing would you tell that child to do to help him or her calm down?
With no other context to this imagination, there is only one message that could possible apply in any situation of anger.
In Julie and Josh’s video “Just Breathe”, the articulate, but evidently genuine children tell us the effects just breathing has on them. They share how it can reduce their anger, calm them down, slow their thoughts and make things seem okay again. It all seems so simple, but when delivered with such honesty you can’t help but believe it is the only requirement for peace of mind. This isn’t a video for children, but a message we all need to hear. The simplest messages are often the most important.
Awareness of mindfulness has increased in recent years thanks to the work of people like Andy Puddicombe. This is something I wish to discuss in a later blog. The science behind it isn’t necessarily complicated, but getting those of us living in a western culture to come round to the idea of meditation is certainly a complex conundrum for those who wish everyone to access the benefits. In a nutshell mindfulness is being aware of your own thoughts and feelings.
The children in “Just Breathe” certainly have a wonderful awareness of their emotions and describe them as eloquently as their still developing vocabulary allows. They also, from experience, seem aware that taking a few moments to breathe helps them get control of their own feelings. They don’t claim that just breathing will take away your anger. They do however, describe a calming effect. When we are calm, when our minds are calm, we can focus on the individual thoughts. We are in control.
As I sat and contemplated the power of the video, I realised why we all need to hear its message. As the video comes to a close, we see adults of all ages breathing…
Just breathing works. We need to remember that. In the stress of the working day, out shopping, or sat in congested traffic, we all feel our blood start to boil from time to time. What do you do when you start to lose control? Maybe you rant and rave. Traditionally we bottled it in, now we’re told let it out. Too many of us say things we regret to colleagues, friends or family. Possibly, you try to control it. Have you read about trigger points to apply pressure, or have you downloaded the latest app to soothe you with the sound of whale song? Some people try binaural tones to change their brain waves. It’s not tried and tested.
One thing works though. If you don’t believe me, you can’t possibly doubt the honest sincerity of children. When you’re angry. When the glitter is whirling round and you don’t know what to do…
(Julie and Josh now wish to make short films for people of all ages and on other topics, like Anxiety, Addiction, Depression, Trauma and Grief. Through their “Mindful Films” campaign they hope to collectively fund films that help people navigate their way through challenging moments, and then give those films back to the world, for free. You can read about the campaign following this link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mindful-shorts#/)