me kay cooke

Easy de-stress

Stress is not good for our health and wellbeing. Stress related illness transcends every part of our society and contributes to under-performance, accidents, relationship dysfunction, mental and physical illness and even death.

Whilst it is true that a stress response may be genuinely required to ensure our survival, modern living has had the unfortunate habit of tricking us into believing we are under stress when we are not really under threat.

Thoughts alone are often the biggest cause of stress, activating symptoms like increased pulse, fast heart rate, profuse sweating, high blood pressure, sticky blood fats and blood sugar, and pupil dilation, to name but a few. These bodily reactions ensure our survival through a maximised physical capability to fight, run or hide. Yet the same bodily reactions make us ill when they are activated regularly by thought alone. Stress is not good for our health, happiness or wellbeing.

Happy Brain is a set of principles and practical activities that help stabilise mind-body responses to stress and our sensory-based perceptions. We teach people how to master their thoughts and feelings and activate useful brain chemistry, which turns ‘unhappy brains’ into ‘happy brains’.


3 principles of our Happy Brain project for next generation thinking


We must feel safe, secure, and have our basic survival-needs met before we can explore and learn about the world.


We become resilient when we learn how to choose feelings and behaviours
and experience worthwhile relationships.


When we feel safe and resilient, then we can plan to make good decisions.

A bit about the nervous system

Understanding how stress affects the Autonomic Nervous System underpins our 3 principles.

In simple terms we consider:

SNS Sympathetic nervous system
(activates fight/flight)

PNS – Parasympathetic nervous system

(stimulates the body to rest)

ENS – Enteric nervous system
(often called the second brain)

Stress activates the SNS. To deactivate it, we must activate the PNS and ENS.

We’ve all experienced that moment where we just had to scream in rage, or sit and cry. Maybe we even ran away from a situation, or felt stuck not knowing what to do or say.

The trick is to bounce back and stop recycling the memories. We teach people how to use their mind and body to quickly feel safe, behave the way they want to, and think clearly.

Here is one activity for instant calming – it’s from our CALM CONFIDENCE KIT (12 wipe clean cards – easy to use, fun activities).

Balloon Breathing – how to do it!

Sit or stand, and imagine you have deflated balloon inside your tummy.

Take a big deep breath in through your nose (feel your tummy get bigger as you breathe – like you have a balloon expanding in there). This is called the in-breath.

Blow out slowly, through your mouth, focus on blowing out and imagine the balloon getting smaller and flatter. This is called the out-breath. Create an in-out breathing rhythm.

Next, begin to make each out-breath last twice as long as the in-breath so that you make a new rhythm, for example you might breathe in to the count of 3 and out to the count of 6.

Practise this each day as a treat for your mind and body and notice how you can increase the breath counts as the calming sensation spreads.

P.S. Of course you are not really breathing in and out through your tummy, it just feels like that. What is actually happening is that beneath your lungs, your diaphragm is pushing upon your vagus nerve, part of your parasympathetic nervous system – activating an instant calming response.

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