Build Your Willpower, Decrease Stress and Depression With Anapanasati Meditation

AtlantThe meditation technique described in the book “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works” by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. (Stanford University Psychologist) is exactly the technique practiced and taught by Buddha. It’s Anapanasati Stage One.

In accordance with Kelly McGonigal, research shows that regular practice of this technique can make you more resilient to stress and build your willpower reserve. A few minutes of Anapanasati Stage One will make you feel calm, in control, and capable of handling cravings or challenges. A daily twenty-minute practice of Anapanasati Stage One increased heart rate variability and reduced cravings and depression among adults recovering from substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. Heart rate variability training programs (using similar breathing exercises) have also been used to improve self-control and decrease the stress of cops, stock traders, and customer service operators— three of the most stressful jobs on the planet. And because it takes only one to two minutes of breathing at this pace to boost your willpower reserve, it’s something you can do whenever you face a willpower challenge.

Meditation Technique by Kelly McGonigal

“You won’t find many quick fixes in this book, but there is one way to immediately boost willpower: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s ten to fifteen seconds per breath — slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases heart rate variability, which helps shift the brain and body from a state of stress to self-control mode. It’s a good idea to practice slowing down your breath before you’re staring down a cheesecake. Start by timing yourself to see how many breaths you normally take in one minute. Then begin to slow the breath down without holding your breath (that will only increase stress). For most people, it’s easier to slow down the exhalation, so focus on exhaling slowly and completely (pursing your lips and imagining that you are exhaling through a straw in your mouth can help). Exhaling fully will help you breathe in more fully and deeply without struggling. If you don’t quite get down to four breaths a minute, don’t worry. Heart rate variability steadily increases as your breathing rate drops below twelve per minute.”

If you compare the technique description by Kelly McGonigal with the Anapanasati Stage One, you will notice that it is the same technique, but Anapanasati is explained by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in more depth.