Stopping to Smell the Lavender

In the last blog I began by sharing the lovely story of my dogs need to calm himself by sniffing poo.  Today I want to expand on what us humans need for self-soothing.  Until my graduate studies in psychology I had never really heard the term self-soothing or been taught any intentional strategies from my home.  So, I thought, maybe I am not the only one out there who is not familiar with the concept.

SELF-SOOTHING…. initially this term sounded weird to me, but I have grown to understand the importance of the need for every individual to find soothing for themselves.  As babies we need a grown up to help soothe us when we are upset, but part of maturing is the ability to sooth ourselves when we are upset. Ironically, as I wrote about Frizbee’s way of calming himself through sniffing, I began to notice similarities again with myself, and really all human beings.

Breathing is also a major form of self-soothing for humans. Thankfully not the sniffing poo sort, but deep slow breathing.  The common cliché, “stop and smell the roses,” comes to mind.  Science continues to point to the physiological effects of calming in the brain and nervous system when a person simply stops their busy life and takes a few deep breaths.  Isn’t it crazy how true some clichés can be?

Here is a simple practice I teach a lot in therapy that I have found personally very helpful when it comes to soothing my own anxiety. 

Self-Soothing Deep Breathing Practice:

  • Remember the number 3
  • Quiet your body by closing your eyes or softening your gaze, put your feet on the floor and focus on your breath
  • Notice how your body is already breathing for you
  • Then take a deep breath in through your nose while you slowly count to 3
  • Hold your breath and again slowly count to 3
  • Exhale with a slow count of 3 through your mouth
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Slowly come back to your day and resume life

Maybe today is a day that your body needs some calming from life’s busy and chaotic pace.  The more you practice simple deep breathing like this exercise above the more your body is able to access this self-soothing practice when life is crazy or your anxiety crops up.  Thankful we are made slightly different from dogs and can find calm without finding something stinky to breath in!  Plus for an added bonus and to take the cliché even more seriously, smelling the scent of flowers like lavender can increase this calming effect even more.  Happy sniffing!