fragmented.ME …
illness & health ...,  mind * body * soul ...

13 breathing techniques …

Reading time: 19 Minutes

It has been claimed that breathing correctly is integral to overall health and well-being as well as imperative to aiding healing.

However, it can be easy to normalise the breath and breathing while dismissing its terribly real importance. Because let’s face it, it is something that we do naturally, every single moment of our lives, mainly without even thinking about it, and given that without it we would not be alive it’s a wonder we don’t give it more attention.

Yet, I do feel that it is vital to acknowledge that, according to most health experts, breathing is at the very top of the ‘important bodily functions’ list and has much real and far reaching effects on the whole body system.

In ‘The Breathing Book’, Donna Fahri (2011) writes that our breathing impacts the ‘respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, gastrointestinal, muscular, and psychic systems and also has a general effect on’ sleep, memory, energy level, and concentration. She too claims that breathing affects every single aspect of you, from your feelings right down to your behaviours.[I]

Furthermore, according to Dr. Danny Penman (2006), breathing has been used ‘for thousands of years … for equally profound effects on the mind and body’ and has been applied for relief from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and all kinds of ills, as well as for spiritual enlightenment.[II]

Moreover, Penman (2006) shares that it was deep slow breathing ‘IN. OUT.’ that saved his life after he fought to stay conscious, and ultimately alive, during a life altering paragliding accident. What’s more, he adds that it was, and still is, breath and breathing that helps him ‘to appreciate the bittersweet beauty of everyday life’, initially after the accident, then during recuperating, and going forwards into the rest of his life. He encourages us to know, accept, and believe that, ‘when you’ve mastered the art of breathing, you will finally be at peace with yourself and the world’.[III]

when you’ve mastered the art of breathing, you will finally be at peace with yourself and the world — Danny Penman (2006)[IV]

On a personal level and for most of my life I have taken my breathing for granted, except at times of breathlessness which would usually be caused by anxiety or a nasty chest infection. Yet, over the preceding five years, since becoming really sick with severe ME, I have noticed how my breath and breathing do have a huge impact on my body and symptoms. I realise now that what both Penman and Farhi claim is very likely true and that I would do very well to pay more than the usual attention to my breath and breathing.

In fact, every single morning, it is only relying on simple conscious breathing that gets me through the pain and up and out of bed. For my day to start, I rely heavily on the ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ (1993) quote, ‘I’m gonna get out of bed every morning … breathe in and out all day long. Then after a while, I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out’[V], which inspires me daily to keep on going. I have written a little about this before, but from a more personal aspect. Please, go to ‘daily timeline …’ and my ‘catch up …’ journal entries to read more about my mornings and daily struggles, it will add a more rounded idea of my illness and its interrelated daily struggles.

I’m gonna get out of bed every morning … breathe in and out all day long. Then after a while, I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out. — Sleepless in Seattle (1993) (spoken by Sam Baldwin, written by Nora Ephron) …[VI]

 . . .  breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body  . . . 
 … Thich Nhat Hanh … 

breathing techniques … 

Through a ‘Google’ search I found an interesting article discussing ten different breathing types, which I am going to use to base some of my discussion on.[VIII] I will discuss these along with some further breathing techniques that that I also found interesting in my online searches.[IX]

But first we will look at a few simple definitions to help with our understanding of breath and breathing.

definitions …

Chambers Dictionary app[X] defines breath, breathe, breathing, as:

the act or process of breathing; respiration …

to inhale or exhale air …

the act or process of respiration …

Given those descriptions then, it is quite clear that breath, breathe, and breathing, all denote acts of ‘doing’ something. Even if before we investigate further, which we will do next, these acts are very clearly about ‘doing’ rather than not doing albeit on an unconscious level.

Hence, with this in mind, let’s take the plunge and get a deeper understanding of how we can influence our whole self through using different methods of breathing.

how to use the breathing techniques …

I suggest that, if you wish to inculcate breathing into your daily self care, initially you have a set time everyday for conscious breathing and that you give each technique a really good go before moving onto another one. That said, some of them, you will know instantly are not suited to you, while others might grow on you. Then again, others might appeal to you instantly. Start with those and your breathing self care will be enjoyable from the start.

Importantly, only do any of the breathing techniques if you enjoy them. The reason being that, for those of you who suffer with anxiety, purposefully focusing on the breath can be triggering.

Personally, I have found that by regularly testing out different breathing techniques at set times and keeping at it until I know the technique inside out it means that when I really need to I can just flick right into using whichever technique I need at the time.

I also use a couple of breathing apps which I can set up to incorporate any breathing style I wish to use, with reminders too, and the both link to the Apple Health app. These apps are called:

Breathe: relax & focus (Bhatkar, 2020)[XI]
Box Breathe (Triasunov, 2018).[XII]

I can thoroughly recommend both of them and I would given them both 5*. However, Breathe: relax & focus just pips Box Breathe in functionality by having the ability to save more breathing techniques and being a lot more customisable.

breathe consciously …

There are only two ways to breathe: consciously or unconsciously. That said, our breathing is controlled by the autonomous nervous system, which means that mainly breathing is done unconsciously, without thought.

When we feel stressed we often hold our breath or breathe much faster than usual. Conversely, when we feel relaxed our breathing is usually slower, with deeper inhales and longer in exhales, and we feel better for it.

Recent research shows that the nervous system can be affected by using conscious breathing. It has shown that you can switch from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, and visa versa. This is a good thing because it means that by regulating the quality of breaths through length, rhythm, and intensity, you can impact and ultimately improve your health.

Malaika (2019)[XIII]

breathe softly …

However, simply breathing consciously is not enough though. You need to add a simple ingredient. That of softness. To breathe softly means to breathe consciously but with an intensity that is just right for you. This will be guided by your intuition, which always knows what is right for you.

By adding intuitive softness to your conscious breath you will have turned your conscious breathing into real healing breathing.

In some of the breathing techniques below we will use deep breathing but mostly it will be breathing with lightness, sweetness, and stillness, that will feel good and help you relax and heal.

Malaika (2019)[XIV]

breathe less …

Yoga and Buddhist teachers encourage breathing less. Most of them are mountain people who actually breathe quite differently than people who live in lower altitudes. For the mountain people, breathing less happens quite naturally due to the different oxygen density and even some oxygen deprivation, which actually can be stimulating in small doses. Soft and soothing breathwork usually involves practices that switch the body into the parasympathetic mode, activate restorative processes, and promote deep relaxation.

Breathe less, think less, talk less, worry less—that is what I learned in the Himalayas. It seems that happiness of those mountain people is rooted in softness, calmness, and the ability to relax, even when things go wrong. Let the softness of your breath be your first step toward happiness.

Malaika (2019)[XV]

how to add breathing into your day …

Breathing exercises don’t have to take much time out of your day. Consistency, little and often, is the key. Just set aside some regular time to breath and before you know it you will be reaping the benefits.

Here are a some ideas to get started:

    • start with a few breaths a day, increasing by a few additional breaths in a weekly basis
    • if a few breaths is too much then start with just one conscious breath each day
    • just one breath at a time will get you there 5 minutes feels too long, start with just 2 minutes
    • once you’ve got a regular routine going then add another at a different time if the day, maybe morning when you wake and evening before you go to sleep
    • work up to longer and more times a day until you turn to conscious breathing whenever you need it

Whatever you decide just enjoy it, have fun, be inventive, and bring your body back home to yourself. You will find peace.

13 breathing techniques …

As mentioned above I will be discussing thirteen different breathing types, which I am going to discuss in much detail, and in relation to ME and my own experience of using them. They are as follows:

My favourites are, breath focus, parasympathetic breathing and resonant breathing. I use them to help my stay calm and to encourage healing. I haven’t tried them all fully yet. So I will update this post when I have more to say and I will alter the postal date each time I update it too.

1) alternate nostril breathing …

This breathing technique is also known as Nadi Shodhana. And although quite a simple technique, it is a powerful tool that can be used to clear the mind and calm the whole self. It acts as a whole system reset button.

my personal experience …

I am not too sure about this breathing technique. I’d love for it to be the one. But sadly, for me, I do t think it is. I have been giving it a got for over two weeks and find it a bother to do. Maybe because I am so exhausted and all the faffing with my hands is likely too much for my level of sickness. That said, I will continue and will update my progress here, whether it is good or bad.

let’s do this …
      • sit comfortably, maybe in a tall seat, make sure your spine is straight and your heart is open
      • relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face
      • using your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor (the fingers we will be actively using are the thumb and ring finger)
      • close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose
      • close your right nostril with your right thumb
      • inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily
      • close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause
      • open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale
      • inhale through the right side slowly
      • hold both nostrils closed as before (with ring finger and thumb); retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause)
      • open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side; pause briefly at the bottom
      • this is one cycle
      • repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales
      • finish your session with an exhale on the left side
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
2) basic breathing …

This breathing technique is also known as Anapanasati and it is believed that this technique was created by the Buddha himself. It is a simple practice where the attention, or mindfulness, is centred on the breath, without any effort to change it.

my personal experience …

I really like this technique because it just helps me check-in on myself. It’s like a ‘stop and breathe’ request from my body to my head, or visa versa. Either way, when I do this basic breathing I tend to relax quite quickly. I also notice where I am tense and usually I send love and ease to those spots.

let’s do this …
      • sit or lie down in stillness with your eyes gently closed
      • observe the natural flow of your breath (try not to change it, just notice it and allow it)
      • to keep your mind focused, count your inhales and exhales from one to ten
      • make sure that your breathing is neutral, soft, and sweet
      • practice for as long as it is pleasant
      • you can return to this many times during your day
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
3) belly breathing …

This breathing technique is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. It is used to help you use your diaphragm correctly. Be careful as this technique can make you feel tired quite quickly.

my personal experience …

Another favourite for me. I often use this breathing technique at night time before I go to sleep or to just get things working fully if I feel tight across my upper abdomen.

Whenever I use this technique I am always left with a profound sense of stillness and peace.

You should try it, you will enjoy it.

let’s do this …
      • lay comfortably on your back with your knees slightly bent and your head on a pillow
      • you may also place a pillow under your knees for support; just be comfortable
      • you may also place a pillow or other object on your belly, allowing you to feel the movement of your belly and diaphragm
      • or you may prefer to:
      • place one hand on your upper chest and one hand below your rib cage, allowing you to feel the movement of your diaphragm
      • inhale slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand
      • keep your other hand as still as possible
      • exhale using pursed lips as you tighten your stomach muscles, keeping your upper hand completely still
      • you can place a book on your abdomen to make the exercise more difficult
      • once you learn how to do belly breathing lying down you can increase the difficulty by trying it while sitting in a chair
      • you can then try to practice the technique while performing your daily activities
      • practice diaphragmatic breathing for 5 to 10 minutes 3 to 4 times per day
      • when you first start belly breathing you may feel tired, but over time the technique should become easier and should feel more natural
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
4) breath focus …

This breathing technique is often used in meditation. It uses uses imagery or focus words and phrases. I often use the words, let it go, be calm, calm down, be easy, or peace. Whatever suits you in the moment is good. I find if I make the words fit what I’m looking for it works so much better.

my personal experience …

This breathing method is one of my favourites. Whenever I notice myself tense, in pain, or feeling as though I am not present with myself, then I use this method to bring me back home, sometimes with words, or sayings to suit my desired outcome. One of my favourite is, it’s ok, it really is ok

let’s do this …
      • get yourself comfortable either sitting or laying down
      • bring awareness to your breaths without trying to change how you are breathing; just breathe
      • alternate between normal and deep breaths a few times
      • notice any differences between normal breathing and deep breathing
      • notice how your abdomen expands with deep inhalations
      • note how shallow breathing feels compared to deep breathing
      • practice your deep breathing for a few minutes
      • place one hand below your belly button, keeping your belly relaxed, and notice how it rises with each inhale and falls with each exhale
      • let out a loud sigh with each exhale
      • always begin the practice of breath focus by combining this deep breathing with imagery and a focus word or phrase that will support relaxation
      • imagine that the air you inhale brings waves of peace and calm throughout your body; mentally say, ‘inhaling peace and calm’
      • imagine that the air you exhale washes away tension and anxiety from your body; mentally say, ‘exhaling tension and anxiety’
      • start with a 10-minute session; gradually increasing the duration until your sessions are at least 20 minutes
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
5) deep breathing …

This breathing technique can help to relieve shortness of breath by preventing air from getting trapped in your lungs and helping you to breathe in more fresh air. It may help you to feel more relaxed and centred.

my personal experience …

This is another breathing technique that brings me back home to myself. It doesn’t take more than a few and I can feel the calm wash over me.

let’s do this …
      • get comfortable either standing or sitting, draw your elbows back slightly to allow your chest to expand
      • inhale deeply in through your nose
      • hold your breath for a count of 5
      • exhale slowly out through your nose
      • do this whenever you feel out of breath, tense, or need to relax
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
6) equal breathing …

This breathing technique is also known as Sama Vritti in Sanskrit. It is an easy technique which focuses on making the inhales and exhales the same length. It uses counts of 2-2-2-2 or 3-3-3-3 (inhale – hold – exhale – hold). But use whatever count suits your breathing in the moment. Do not hold your breath for longer than five-six counts. This breathing technique helps to keep your breath smooth and steady as it can help bring about balance and equanimity.

my personal experience …

Personally, I find this breathing technique hard. I feel exhausted when I do it and it can also make me feel a little breathless. I think that anything that means I need to count rigidly and alter my natural breath flow by too much is work to my poorly body. I won’t give up because the benefits are too good. But, I will be easy on myself in terms of regularity.

let’s do this …
      • get yourself comfortable, close your eyes, and find your natural breath
      • allow your body to relax and feel safe
      • when you are ready, inhale through the nose for a count of two, hold for a count of two, exhale for a count of two, hold for a count of two
      • then start again using the same formula (2-2-2-2)
      • repeat for 8-10 rounds of 2-2-2-2
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
7) humming bee breath …

This breathing technique is also known as Bhramari Pranayama. Bhramari is the Sanskrit term for bee and is named after a type of black Indian bee due to the bee-like buzzing sound produced during the exhale. However, due to the humming sound you will need to make sure that while doing this breathing style, it is practiced it in a place where you are free to make some noise. It can have an instant calming effect and can be used relieve frustration, anxiety, and anger.

my personal experience …

I have not tried this one yet. I will update the blog once I have tried it and have an opinion.

let’s do this …
      • choose a comfortable seated position
      • close your eyes and relax your face
      • place your first fingers on the tragus cartilage that partially covers your ear canal
      • inhale, and as you exhale gently press your fingers into the cartilage
      • keep your mouth closed, and make a loud humming sound
      • continue doing this for as long as is comfortable
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
8) lion’s breath …

This breathing technique is also known as Simhasana in Sanskrit and as Lion’s Pose in yoga. It is said to energise while relieving chest and facial tension.

my personal experience …

I have not tried this one yet. I will update the blog once I have tried it and have an opinion.

let’s do this …
      • get into a comfortable seated position; you can sit back on your heels or cross your legs, whichever is most comfortable for you
      • press your palms against your knees with your fingers spread wide
      • inhale deeply, in through your nose and open your eyes wide
      • at the same time, open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue, bringing the tip down toward your chin, contract the muscles at the front of your throat as you
      • exhale, out through your mouth by making a long “ha” sound
      • you can turn your gaze to look at the space between your eyebrows or the tip of your nose
      • do this breath style 2 to 3 times
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
9) long breathing …

This breathing technique is also known as Dirgha Pranayama and involves slowly filling your lungs with as much air as possible. In Sanskrit the word, dirgha, actually means ‘long’ and is often referred to as ‘the complete breath’, ‘the yogic breath’, or ‘the three-part breath’.

my personal experience …

This is another great breathing technique for helping me to feel more relaxed in my body.

let’s do this …
      • lie down flat on your back, get comfortable, and put one hand on your belly and the other on your upper chest
      • close your eyes and start to observe your breathing; make your breathes even and smooth
      • inhale slowly into the lower abdomen and pelvic area, and feel your hand rise
      • continue inhaling into the mid-section of the torso, expanding the diaphragm and the ribs
      • bring your breath into the upper chest and shoulders; feel how your second hand rises up
      • start exhaling slowly in the reverse order, releasing the upper chest first, then the diaphragm and ribs, and finally the lower abdomen; expelling all the air, allow yourself to feel relief
      • take a pause if you need to; then repeat a few more cycles at a slow pace
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
10) parasympathetic breathing …

This breathing technique is the based on pranayama breathing exercises and is said to tone the vagus nerve. Pranayama is the ancient yogic practice of controlling your breath and it has been shown to reduce stress and encourage relaxation. It has also been dubbed a ‘natural tranquilliser’ for the nervous system. It is a fairly easy technique which focuses on making the exhale twice the inhale. It uses counts of 4-7-8 (inhale – hold – exhale).

my personal experience …

This breathing technique is really great for switching from a heightened body state to a more relaxed one. I find it really does enable me to feel a deep calm and relaxation.

let’s do this …
      • get yourself into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and start to observe your breathing
      • when you are ready, inhale for a count of two, hold your breath in for a count of two, and then exhale gently for a count of four
      • after you have fully exhaled, hold the breath again for a count of two to four
      • keep your breathing round and smooth
      • the main principle of parasympathetic breathing is elongating exhalations to become at least twice as long as your inhalations; you can experiment by creating different patterns, for example, try a ‘2-2-4-2, 4-2-8-2’ or any other pattern that works for you
      • repeat for 8 to 10 times
      • never exaggerate or push too hard
      • remember, it is all about doing less, but feeling more
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
11) pursed lip breathing …

This breathing technique is a very simple method to slow down the pace of breathing by having you apply deliberate effort in each breath. You can practice pursed lip breathing at any time. It can be especially useful during activities such as bending, lifting, or stair climbing.

my personal experience …

I have not tried this one yet. I will update the blog once I have tried it and have an opinion.

let’s do this …
      • get comfortable with relaxed neck and shoulders
      • inhale, slowly through your nose for 2 counts
      • puck or purse your lips as though you were going to whistle
      • exhale, slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4
      • practice using this breath 4 to 5 times a day when you begin in order to correctly learn the breathing pattern
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
12) resonant breathing …

This breathing technique is also known as coherent breathing. Coherent breathing is when you breathe at a rate of 5 full breaths per minute. You can achieve this rate by inhaling and exhaling for a count of 5. Breathing at this rate maximizes your heart rate variability (HRV), reduces stress, and, is said to reduce symptoms of depression when combined with Iyengar yoga.

my personal experience …

This feels like a nice easy technique to inculcate throughout the day. Especially consider the benefits of increased HRV, which is something that is often low in those with ME. I know mine is. I will let you know if I feel it has impacted my HRV when I have done it regularly for at least one month so that I can compare it to the previous month’s numbers.

let’s do this …
      • inhale, for a count of 5
      • exhale, for a count of 5
      • continue this breathing pattern for at least a few minutes
‘13 breathing techniques’ …
13) sitali breath …

This breathing technique is also known as the cooling breath method. It is a yoga breathing practice that helps lower body temperature and relax the mind and is useful for when you are hot and bothered. In this breathing method you slowly sip air through a rolled tongue and slightly extend the breath in length (or pursed lips for those who can’t roll their tongues).

my personal experience …

Because I am very hot a lot I really rely on this breathing technique to help me cool down. I sweat a very lot at least every single day and night and so rely on this daily. I can even manage to do it very quietly so I don’t wake anyone.

let’s do this …
      • get yourself into a comfortable seated position
      • stick out your tongue and curl your tongue to bring the outer edges together; if your tongue doesn’t do this, then you can purse your lips
      • inhale, in through your mouth
      • exhale, out through your nose
      • continue breathing like this for up to 5 minutes
      • slightly extend your breath in length but don’t force it
      • since you inhale through your mouth during Sitali breath, you may want to choose a place to practice that’s free of any allergens that affect you and air pollution
‘13 breathing techniques’ …

for breath is life
so if you breathe well you will live long on earth
– Sanskrit Proverb

in summary & in conclusion …

I also believe that, ‘when you’ve mastered the art of breathing, you will finally be at peace with yourself and the world’.[XVI]

a personal concluding note …



Please feel free to contact me to share your outcomes or with any questions you may have.

 fragmented.ME xXx

Last Updated on 12/05/2022 by fragmented_ME

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My birth name is Denise, but I’m know as Bella to those who love me. I have a first class honours degree in education & psychology and a strong passion to keep learning and educating others ... I have severe ME/CFS and lots of other chronic illnesses and I started this blog as an expansion to my instagram page, where I advocate for chronic illness. I am married and have two grown up boys, or should I say young men. I have three gorgeous grandchildren, one boy and two girls. And despite being chronically sick and housebound I am mostly happy. 🥰

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10 steps to practicing Radical Acceptance
according to DBT’s founder, Marsha Linehan:


1.  Observe that you are questioning or fighting reality (“it shouldn’t be this way”)

2.  Remind yourself that the unpleasant reality is just as it is and cannot be changed (“this is what happened”)

3.  Remind yourself that there are causes for the reality (“this is how things happened”)

4.  Practice accepting with your whole self (mind, body, spirit) - Use accepting self-talk, relaxation techniques, mindfulness and/or imagery

5.  List all of the behaviors you would engage in if you did accept the facts and then engage in those behaviors as if you have already accepted the facts

6.  Imagine, in your mind’s eye, believing what you do not want to accept and rehearse in your mind what you would do if you accepted what seems unacceptable

7.  Attend to body sensations as you think about what you need to accept

8.  Allow disappointment, sadness or grief to arise within you

9.  Acknowledge that life can be worth living even when there is pain

10.  Do pros and cons if you find yourself resisting practicing acceptance

Logo of ijpsych

2009 Oct-Dec; 51(4): 239–241.
doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.58285: 10.4103/0019-5545.58285
PMCID: PMC2802367
PMID: 20048445

The biochemistry of belief

Address for correspondence: Dr. TS Sathyanarayana Rao, Department of Psychiatry, JSS University, JSS Medical College Hospital, M.G. Road, Mysore - 570 004, India. E-mail: moc.oohay@91oarsst
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

“Man is what he believes”

Anton Chekhov

Beliefs are basically the guiding principles in life that provide direction and meaning in life. Beliefs are the preset, organized filters to our perceptions of the world (external and internal). Beliefs are like ‘Internal commands’ to the brain as to how to represent what is happening, when we congruently believe something to be true. In the absence of beliefs or inability to tap into them, people feel disempowered.

Beliefs originate from what we hear - and keep on hearing from others, ever since we were children (and even before that!). The sources of beliefs include environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, visualization etc. One of the biggest misconceptions people often harbor is that belief is a static, intellectual concept. Nothing can be farther from truth! Beliefs are a choice. We have the power to choose our beliefs. Our beliefs become our reality.

Beliefs are not just cold mental premises, but are ‘hot stuff’ intertwined with emotions (conscious or unconscious). Perhaps, that is why we feel threatened or react with sometimes uncalled for aggression, when we believe our beliefs are being challenged! Research findings have repeatedly pointed out that the emotional brain is no longer confined to the classical locales of the hippocampus, amygdala and hypothalamus.[1] The sensory inputs we receive from the environment undergo a filtering process as they travel across one or more synapses, ultimately reaching the area of higher processing, like the frontal lobes. There, the sensory information enters our conscious awareness. What portion of this sensory information enters is determined by our beliefs. Fortunately for us, receptors on the cell membranes are flexible, which can alter in sensitivity and conformation. In other words, even when we feel stuck ‘emotionally’, there is always a biochemical potential for change and possible growth. When we choose to change our thoughts (bursts of neurochemicals!), we become open and receptive to other pieces of sensory information hitherto blocked by our beliefs! When we change our thinking, we change our beliefs. When we change our beliefs, we change our behavior.

A mention of the ‘Placebo’ is most appropriate at this juncture. Medical history is replete with numerous reported cases where placebos were found to have a profound effect on a variety of disorders. One such astounding case was that of a woman suffering from severe nausea and vomiting. Objective measurements of her gastric contractions indicated a disrupted pattern matching the condition she complained of. Then a ‘new, magical, extremely potent’ drug was offered to her, which would, the doctors proclaimed, undoubtedly cure her nausea. Within a few minutes, her nausea vanished! The very same gastric tests now revealed normal pattern, when, in actuality, she had been given syrup of ipecac, a substance usually used to induce nausea! When the syrup was presented to her, paired with the strong suggestion of relief of nausea, by an authority figure, it acted as a (command) message to the brain that triggered a cascade of self-regulatory biochemical responses within the body.[2] This instance dramatically demonstrates that the influence of placebo could be more potent than expected drug effect.

An important observation was that, part of the placebo response seemed to involve the meaning of the disorder or the illness to the individual. In other words, the person's belief or how she/he interprets (inter-presents or internally represents) directly governs the biological response or behavior. Another remarkable study involved a schizophrenic. This woman was observed to have split personality. Under normal conditions, her blood glucose levels were normal. However, the moment she believed she was diabetic, her entire physiology changed to become that of a diabetic, including elevated blood glucose levels.[3]

Suggestions or symbolic messages shape beliefs that in turn affect our physical well being. Several cases of ‘Disappearance of warts’ have been reported by Ornstein and Sobel wherein they ponder on how the brain translates the suggestions (sometimes using hypnosis) into systematic biochemical battle strategies such as chemical messengers sent to enlist the aid of immune cells in an assault on the microbe-induced miniature tumor or probably small arteries are selectively constricted, cutting off the vital nutrient supply to warts but not touching the neighboring healthy cells.[2]

Findings of carefully designed research indicate that our interpretation of what we are seeing (experiencing) can literally alter our physiology. In fact, all symptoms of medicine work through our beliefs. By subtly transforming the unknown (disease/disorder) into something known, named, tamed and explained, alarm reactions in the brain can be calmed down. All therapies have a hidden, symbolic value and influence on the psyche, besides the direct specific effect they may have on the body.

Just as amazingly life-affirming placebos are, the reverse, “Nocebo' has been observed to be playing its part too. It is associated with negative, life-threatening or disempowering beliefs. Arthur Barsky, a psychiatrist states that it is the patient's expectations – beliefs whether a drug or procedure works or will have side effects – that plays a crucial role in the outcome.[4]

The biochemistry of our body stems from our awareness.[5] Belief-reinforced awareness becomes our biochemistry. Each and every tiny cell in our body is perfectly and absolutely aware of our thoughts, feelings and of course, our beliefs. There is a beautiful saying ‘Nobody grows old. When people stop growing, they become old’. If you believe you are fragile, the biochemistry of your body unquestionably obeys and manifests it. If you believe you are tough (irrespective of your weight and bone density!), your body undeniably mirrors it. When you believe you are depressed (more precisely, when you become consciously aware of your ‘Being depressed’), you stamp the raw data received through your sense organs, with a judgment – that is your personal view – and physically become the ‘interpretation’ as you internalize it. A classic example is ‘Psychosocial dwarfism’, wherein children who feel and believethat they are unloved, translate the perceived lack of love into depleted levels of growth hormone, in contrast to the strongly held view that growth hormone is released according to a preprogrammed schedule coded into the individual's genes!

Providing scientific evidence to support a holistic approach to well being and healthcare, Bruce Lipton sheds light on mechanism underlying healing at cellular level. He emphasizes that ‘love’ is the most healing emotion and ‘placebo’ effect accounts for a substantial percentage of any drug's action, underscoring the significance of beliefs in health and sickness. According to him, as adults, we still believe in and act our lives out based on information we absorbed as children (pathetic indeed!). And the good news is, we can do something about the ‘tape’ our subconscious mind is playing (ol' silly beliefs) and change them NOW.[6] Further recent literature evidences provided knowledge based on scientific principles of biology of belief. There are limited studies on clinics of traditional beliefs and if we get more scientific data, we can use these traditional systems in clinical mental health management. Human belief system is formed by all the experiences learned and experimented filtered through personality.[7] The senses to capture inner and outer perceptions have higher brain potentials. Some questions that arise in this context are, does the integration and acceptance of these perceptions result in the establishment of beliefs? Does the establishment of these beliefs depend on proof demonstrations? The proofs might be the perceptions, which we can directly see or having scientific proof or custom or faith.[8,9] Beliefs are developed as stimuli received as trusted information and stored in the memory. These perceptions are generalized and established into belief. These beliefs are involved in the moral judgment of the person. Beliefs help in decision-making. Bogousslavsky and Inglin explained that, how some physicians were more successful by taking an account of patient beliefs. Beliefs influence factors involved in the development of psychopathology. They also influence the cognitive and emotional assessment, addictiveness, responses to false positives and persistent normal defensive reactions. Total brain function is required in stabilizing the belief and in responding to environmental system. Some of the brain regions and the neural circuits are very important in establishing beliefs and executing emotions. Frontal lobes play a major role in beliefs. Mental representations of the world are integrated with sub-cortical information by prefrontal cortex. Amygdala and Hippocampus are involved in the process of thinking and thus help in execution of beliefs. NMDA receptor is involved in thinking and in the development of beliefs. These beliefs are subjected to challenge. A belief that is subjected to more challenges becomes stronger. When a new stimulus comes, it creates distress in the brain with already existing patterns. The distress results in the release of dopamine (neurotransmitter) to transmit the signal.[10,11] Research findings of Young and Saxe (2008) revealed that medial prefrontal cortex is involved in processing the belief valence.[12] Right temporoparietal junction and precuneus are involved in the processing of beliefs to moral judgment. True beliefs are processed through right temporoparietal junction.[13,14] Saxe (2006) explained that beliefs judging starts at the age of five years citing example of judging of belief questions on short stories by the children.[15] Belief attribution involved activating regions of medial prefrontal cortex, superior temporal gyri and hippocampal regions. Studies by Krummenacher et al, have shown that dopamine levels are associated with paranormal thoughts suggesting the role of dopamine in belief development in the brain.[16] Flannelly et al, illustrated on how primitive brain mechanisms that evolved to assess environmental threats in related psychiatric disorders.[17] Also were highlighted the issues such as the way beliefs can affect psychiatric symptoms through these brain systems. The theories discussed widely are related to (a) link psychiatric disorders to threat assessment and (b) explain how the normal functioning of threat assessment systems can become pathological. It is proposed that three brain structures are implicated in brain disorders in response to threat assessment and self-defense: the regions are the prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia and parts of limbic system. The functionality of these regions has great potential to understand mechanism of belief formation and its relevance in neurological functions/dysfunctions. Now it is clear that biology and physiology of belief is an open area for research both at basic and clinical level. The future directions are to develop validated experimental or sound theoretical interpretation to make ‘BELIEF’ as a potential clinical management tool.

Perceptual shifts are the prerequisites for changing the belief and hence changing the biochemistry of our body favorably. Our innate desire and willingness to learn and grow lead to newer perceptions. When we consciously allow newer perceptions to enter the brain by seeking new experiences, learning new skills and changed perspectives, our body can respond in newer ways –this is the true secret of youth. Beliefs (internal representations/interpretations) thus hold the magic wand of remarkable transformations in our biochemical profile. If you are chasing joy and peace all the time everywhere but exclaim exhausted, ‘Oh, it's to be found nowhere!’, why not change your interpretation of NOWHERE to ‘NOW HERE’; just by introducing a gap, you change your awareness – that changes your belief and that changes your biochemistry in an instant!

Everything exists as a ‘Matrix of pure possibilities’ akin to ‘formless’ molten wax or moldable soft clay. We shape them into anything we desire by choosing to do so, prompted, dictated (consciously or unconsciously) by our beliefs. The awareness that we are part of these ever-changing fields of energy that constantly interact with one another is what gives us the key hitherto elusive, to unlock the immense power within us. And it is our awareness of this awesome truth that changes everything. Then we transform ourselves from passive onlookers to powerful creators. Our beliefs provide the script to write or re-write the code of our reality.

Thoughts and beliefs are an integral part of the brain's operations. Neurotransmitters could be termed the ‘words’ brain uses to communicate with exchange of information occurring constantly, mediated by these molecular messengers. Unraveling the mystery of this molecular music induced by the magic of beliefs, dramatically influencing the biochemistry of brain could be an exciting adventure and a worth pursuing cerebral challenge.


1. Candace Pert. Molecules of emotion: Why you feel the way you feel. New York, USA: Scribner Publications; 2003. ISBN-10: 0684846349.
2. Ornstein R, Sobel D. The healing brain: Breakthrough discoveries about how the brain keeps us healthy. USA: Malor Books; 1999. ISBN-10: 1883536170.
3. Robbins A. Unlimited power: The new science of personal excellence. UK: Simon and Schuster; 1986. ISBN 0-7434-0939-6.
4. Braden G. The spontaneous healing of belief. Hay House Publishers (India) Pvt. Ltd; 2008. ISBN 978-81-89988-39-5.
5. Chopra D. Ageless body, timeless mind: The quantum alternative to growing old. Hormony Publishers; 1994. ISBN -10: 0517882124.
6. Lipton B. The biology of belief: Unleashing the power of consciousness, matter and miracles. Mountain of Love Publishers; 2005. ISBN 978-0975991473.
7. Bogousslavsky J, Inglin M. Beliefs and the brain. Eur Neurol. 2007;58:129–32. [PubMed: 17622716]
8. Gundersen L. Faith and healing. Ann Intern Med. 2000;132:169–72. [PubMed: 10644287]
9. Mueller PS, Plevak DJ, Rummans TA. Religious involvement, spirituality, and medicine: Implications for clinical practice. Mayo Clin Proc. 2001;76:1225–35. [PubMed: 11761504]
10. Patel AD, Peretz I, Tramo M, Labreque R. Processing prosodic and musical patterns: A neuropsychological investigation. Brain Lang. 1998;61:123–44. [PubMed: 9448936]
11. Tramo MJ. Biology and music. Music of the hemispheres. Science. 2001;291:54–6. [PubMed: 11192009]
12. Young L, Saxe R. The neural basis of belief encoding and integration in moral judgment. Neuroimage. 2008;40:1912–20. [PubMed: 18342544]
13. Aichhorn M, Perner J, Weiss B, Kronbichler M, Staffen W, Ladurner G. Temporo-parietal junction activity in theory-of-mind tasks: Falseness, beliefs, or attention. J Cogn Neurosci. 2009;21:1179–92. [PubMed: 18702587]
14. Abraham A, Rakoczy H, Werning M, von Cramon DY, Schubotz RI. Matching mind to world and vice versa: Functional dissociations between belief and desire mental state processing. Soc Neurosci. 2009;1:18. [PubMed: 19670085]
15. Saxe R. Why and how to study Theory of Mind with fMRI. Brain Res. 2006;1079:57–65. [PubMed: 16480695]
16. Krummenacher P, Mohr C, Haker H, Brugger P. Dopamine, paranormal belief, and the detection of meaningful stimuli. J Cogn Neurosci. 2009 Jun 30; [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed: 19642883]
17. Flannelly KJ, Koenig HG, Galek K, Ellison CG. Beliefs, mental health, and evolutionary threat assessment systems in the brain. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2007;195:996–1003. [PubMed: 18091193]

Articles from Indian Journal of Psychiatry are provided here courtesy of Wolters Kluwer -- Medknow Publications

HRPacing ...


Heart Rate Pacing is a technique used to stay within ones energy reserves. The anaerobic threshold (AT) is the heart rate at which aerobic energy surges. The threshold is often around about 60% of a ones maximum heart rate, though each person is different and an individual's threshold may vary from day to day or within a day.

(Note: Maximum heart rate is 220 minus ones age. For a 50 year old, 60% of maximum heart rate is (220 - 50) x 0.6 = 102 bpm.)


* Changes colour to indicate:

- Resting - (REST) Lavender

- Recovery (RECOVER) - Green (RHR + 10%)

- Exertion (EXERT) - Orange (RHR + 20%)

- Anaerobic Threshold (AT) - Red ((220-50)x0.6)

* Set an alert based on:

- reaching Anaerobic Threshold Zone, or

- custom set Maximum Heart Rate.

* Set the Anaerobic Threshold Tolerance from 0.6 (default) to 0.5 if desired.

* Set a custom interval between alerts (15 secs default).

* Displays 12/24 hour clock based on user settings in Fitbit profile.

cognitive deficits in patients with ME/CFS …

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… duplicitous …

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summary of the 5 major diagnostic criteria from 1988 onwards …

summary of the 5 major diagnostic criteria from 1988 onwards …

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