One of the delights of Clinical Hypnosis work is introducing a simple breathing technique to children – and adults – adapted from Joyce C. Mill’s work, which she calls “The Magic Happy Breath”. In these days of color codes for security, not just for ozone levels, rising stress levels, etc., remembering how to enjoy the breath we take in seems vital.
I first ask children to show me how they take a deep breath. Invariably, they adorably screw their foreheads in concentration, tighten assorted muscle groups, breathe in noisily through their mouths and lift their shoulders up during their intake breath. I explain that their lungs aren’t located in their shoulders, but in their back, where they wings would be. The children usually laugh. I demonstrate taking a hearty breath – closed mouth intake; loud and silly long outtake of breath. I hold my diaphragm area and show the child how I push out with my intake breath, filling and emptying my lungs as if inflating and deflating a balloon.
I ask the children to think of what they would like to feel when breathing in – and then whether that feeling (i.e., “good”, “peaceful”, “happy”, etc) has a color (e.g., I ask “what does that feeling look like?”), texture (e.g., asking “is it velvety, bubbly, smooth, fizzy?”), temperature (e.g., asking “does it feel warm or cool?”), flavor (e.g., “strawberry, peach-mango, etc.?), smell, etc. Then I do the same thing with a more “uncomfortable or “upset” feeling they might want to “breathe out”. I help children associate the comfortable and uncomfortable feelings, colors, textures, smells, etc with breathing in and out.
I emphasize to the children that they need to breathe out longer than they breathe in - by dramatically exaggerating my outtake breath. I explain that people can’t feel relaxed and upset at the same time, using the child’s own words. I invite the children to explore this way of breathing and to enjoy doing so whenever they can, even in school or public places. While they breathe in, I do as well. While they exhale, I point out that for their next breath out, they make sure that whatever specific uncomfortable feeling they are breathing out is still “coloring” the tips of their ears, eyelashes, fingers and toes. In this way, I can teach the child to quickly scan for any residual tension or discomfort and deepen their breathing and sense of connection to feeling more comfortable. Please feel free to enjoy this experience, whatever age you are, as often and with much gusto!
Dr. Heiko Training offers newly minted therapists as well as seasoned mental health professionals opportunities for training in Sandplay™ certification, ASCH Clinical Hypnosis certification, practice consultation and supervision for psychologists requiring a NC license.