A common misconception about the autonomic nervous system is that you cannot voluntarily control it. Research shows that the autonomic nervous system can indeed be voluntarily influenced even through short-term training (Kox et al., 2014). In a study by Kox and colleagues, subjects were trained for 10 days in meditation and breathing techniques. They subsequently developed a better immune response than those that did not undergo training.
This research provides evidence that you can learn to influence your autonomic nervous system. Regulating your breathing and your thoughts through meditation, for example, can increase the anti-inflammatory cytokine that is correlated with fewer flu-like symptoms. Additionally, the way you talk to yourself (your inner dialogue) also affects your stress and inflammation response.
If you tend to focus on negative thoughts, you are more likely to feel depressed and have a higher inflammatory response (Maydych, 2019). Consequently, you are more likely to have poorer performance at work, in relationships, and in other areas of your life.
Practicing self-regulation exercises offer a host of benefits, from helping you ground yourself, reduce tension, enabling you to process your daily demands and focus your attention on the things you can control.
Learning And Practising Self-Regulation Can Benefit You In A Variety Of Ways:
Control your arousal level
Regulate your stress
Protects you against the adverse effects of stress
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