We’ve all been there.
It’s the end of a long, hard, day. You’re exhausted. So is your partner. And, all of a sudden, everything they do becomes excruciatingly annoying: the way they chew their food, the way they cut you off in the kitchen on your way to the fridge, or that thing they said at dinner.
Avoiding conflict in these conditions is like avoiding getting soaked during a massive rain storm. Sometimes, it feels inevitable.
But what if you could silently and invisibly change the weather of your mind to avoid these conflicts? What if all you have to do is exhale?
This is an insight supported by ancient wisdom and an emerging body of scientific research.
When we extend the length of our exhale, we shift the mind and nervous system. Our heart rate slows, we relax a little, and we can now act more skillfully.
How do you do it? Here are a few tips.
When feeling angry or anxious, we tend to over emphasize the inhale. So the first step in this practice is to exhale longer then you inhale.
A good place to start is a two-to-one ratio. If you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Take a few of these extended-exhale breaths, and you'll notice a subtle shift in your mind and nervous system.
Avoid the temptation to force or push your breath into this extended-exhale ratio. The key is to stay relaxed. Feel the exhale softly dissolve and then allow the inhale to happen by itself. Think of it more like a sigh than a scream.
How do you know when to practice extended-exhale breathing? Try using irritation as your signal. Think of it like the warning light on the dashboard of your mind.
The experience of feeling annoyed with your partner is a sign that the engine of your mind is about to overheat. It's your built-in reminder that now would be a good time to exhale, long, slow, and relaxed, all so you can have what you really want, fewer energy-draining arguments, more connection and love.