Mindfulness at 10-Day Stay

By Marilee Nelson |

Mindfulness at 10-Day Stay

Our perspective is an essential asset that can help direct the course of our lives. In fact, after working with many people over the last 40 years, the first thing I want to understand is their outlook on life. Are they feeling hopeful, depressed, or have no hope? Are they scared or anxious regardless of what they do or try to think?  I have found that if someone is eating food and products with harmful chemicals, it can be very challenging  to keep a positive, stress-free focus. Sometimes, just the removal  of these harmful toxins results in a spontaneous lifting of behavioral issues in children, depression, and anxiety and the capacity to shift to a more directed life-supporting viewpoint.  

Removing harmful chemicals from our products and food often clears the way for us to address our true thoughts and emotional patterns. During the 10-Day Stay, participants were supported in many ways through a non-toxic environment, nourishing whole foods, reduction in screen time, and protocols to physically support the removal of toxins from the body. We wanted to make sure they were detoxing from all angles to maximize their efforts with us. Mental detoxification and mindfulness are crucial for clearing out detrimental thought patterns and emotional trauma, which can profoundly affect one’s physical health. Just a thought shift from despair and feeling helpless to thoughts of hope and determination removes a great burden of stress and, to some, can be as healing as tossing harmful products from your home. Below are some of the mindfulness exercises and breathing techniques we encouraged our 10-Day Stay participants to try during the course of their stay.

Reframe Your Thoughts

This is a call to examine your everyday thought patterns and make simple changes to improve your mental and cellular health. Adopting a resilient, heart-centered mindset is key to maintaining healthy chromosomes and cells.

Research shows that negative thoughts can shorten telomeres, the protective caps on our chromosomes, while positive thinking can lengthen them. Start each day hopeful, and strive to avoid pessimistic and hostile thoughts. Pay attention to your reactions in challenging situations—feelings of threat or limitation are associated with shorter telomeres.

To transform your mindset:

  • Identify toxic thoughts such as fear, worry, anxiety, anger, envy, and rumination on negative events.
  • Address the root causes of these thoughts instead of suppressing them. Unresolved toxic thoughts can accumulate in the body, harming your well-being much like physical toxins do.
  • Replace negative thoughts with constructive, positive ones to alleviate mental and physical stress and promote overall health.
  • Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself whether they are truly accurate, what evidence supports or refutes them, and how you would respond to a friend expressing these thoughts. Replace them with more balanced, compassionate responses.

Practice Expressive Writing

James Pennebaker, Chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Texas, has extensively researched the benefits of expressive writing. His studies reveal that writing about deep emotional experiences for just 10-15 minutes a day can lead to significant health benefits.

These include:

  • Stabilized blood pressure
  • Enhanced immune function
  • Improved mood and sleep
  • Better physical health
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Faster recovery after surgery
  • Boosted ability to fight infections and cancer
  • Improved memory and academic performance

Expressive writing helps by unblocking emotional barriers, enhancing blood flow to the brain. This supports better cognitive functions and overall mental health. Notable works like "Molecules of Emotion" by Candace B. Pert and "The Writing Cure" by Stephen J. Lepore and Joshua M. Smyth also detail how writing affects the brain and body at a physiological level.

How to Practice Expressive Writing Effectively:

  1. Set a clear intention to express your deepest thoughts and feelings.
  2. Write by hand about the most traumatic events of your life or daily stresses.
  3. Use a fast, uninhibited style without worrying about grammar or neatness.
  4. Engage all senses during writing to enhance the effectiveness.
  5. Optionally play soothing background music to aid the process.
  6. Dispose of the writing afterward to symbolize letting go of the emotions.
  7. Drink water post-writing to help detoxify physically.

Relaxation Response Technique

Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, developed a simple yet effective relaxation technique. Extensively tested at Harvard and Beth Israel Hospital, this method helps release stress energy, which can alleviate conditions like high blood pressure, adrenal exhaustion, and chronic illnesses including cancer and heart disease. This technique should not be done soon after eating, as digestion can disrupt the relaxation process. For more details, Dr. Benson's book "The Relaxation Response" provides further guidance.

How to Practice the Relaxation Response:

  1. Timing: Best practiced for 10 to 20 minutes twice daily, ideally before breakfast and in the late afternoon before dinner. Practicing once a day, especially in the morning, is still beneficial.
  2. Position: Sit in a quiet space with a straight back in a comfortable chair.
  3. Relaxation: Close your eyes, and progressively relax your muscles starting from your feet up to your face.
  4. Breathing: Breathe through your nose, focusing on your breath; inhale and exhale naturally, keeping your attention on the rhythm.
  5. Duration: Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
  6. Ending the Session: After finishing, sit quietly first with your eyes closed, then open, for a few minutes before standing up.
  7. Mindset: Don't stress about achieving deep relaxation immediately. Allow relaxation to happen at its own pace. If distracted, gently return your focus to your breathing.

Gratitude and the Brain

Gratitude acts like a natural antidepressant. Appreciating even small things can significantly boost your mood.

Benefits of Gratitude:

  • Promotes positive thinking by restructuring cognitive processes.
  • Increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, enhancing happiness.
  • Reduces fear and anxiety by managing stress hormones.
  • Develops new neural connections in the brain’s bliss center.

According to the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA, gratitude changes brain structures, making us happier and improving our immune system functioning. Daily practice of gratitude strengthens these neural pathways, fostering a lasting positive and grateful mindset. Regularly writing in a gratitude journal can enhance mood, increase optimism, and improve sleep—all at no cost.

Brain and Nervous System Retraining Programs

These programs are designed for individuals dealing with trauma, chronic illness, or chemical sensitivity, focusing on altering harmful thought patterns and fear-based thinking:

  1. Gupta Amygdala Retraining: This technique targets the amygdala, the brain's fear center. It helps identify and modify toxic thinking, breaking the cycle of fear-driven thoughts.
  1. Dynamic Neural Retraining by Annie Hopper: Similar to the Gupta program, this method has helped many people overcome fear-based thinking through brain retraining.
  1. Primal Trust: Focuses on both brain retraining and healing the nervous system.

Breathing to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls bodily functions that are not consciously directed, such as breathing and heartbeat. It has two main branches:

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): Activates the "fight or flight" response during stress.
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): Promotes "rest and digest" functions that help the body relax and recover.

The Vagus nerve is crucial for the PNS. It connects the brain to several internal organs, including the gut and heart, and helps regulate stress responses.

Breathing and the Vagus Nerve:

  • Shallow Breathing: Triggers the SNS, leading to stress and an acidic body state.
  • Deep Breathing: Activates the PNS, promoting relaxation and a more alkaline state. It also stimulates the lymph system, aiding in lymph circulation.

Deep Breathing Exercise:

  1. Sit upright without leaning back. Support your back with pillows, if desired.
  2. Fully exhale to empty the lungs.
  3. Place your right hand on your chest and your left hand just above your belly button.
  4. Breathe in deeply through your belly so that only the left hand rises.
  5. Take a deep breath slowly through the nose for about 4-5 seconds.
  6. Hold the breath for 2-3 seconds.
  7. Exhale slowly through the nose for 8 seconds, allowing your belly to fall.
  8. Hold your breath again for 2-3 seconds.
  9. Repeat this process for at least 5 minutes before meals to help stimulate the Vagus nerve and encourage a state of relaxation. If you don’t have time for this at least take 3 - 5 breaths as described above.  You can do this discreetly  - you don’t have to have your hands on your chest and belly once you have practiced what it feels like to belly breathe!

Deep breathing not only promotes physical relaxation but also improves overall autonomic function by balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

Mindful Breathing Techniques:

Controlling one’s breath to synchronize the mind and body offers numerous benefits. Here are some detailed breathing techniques to enhance this practice:

4-7-8 Breathing: A breathing pattern that promotes relaxation and stress reduction.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth. Place your tongue so it is pressing against your top front teeth. Close your lips and inhale silently through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 7 seconds. Exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds, making a whoosh sound. Repeat the cycle four times.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Focus on deep, even breaths that fully engage the diaphragm.

  • Lie on your back or sit comfortably. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your belly moves out against your hand, while the hand on your chest remains still. Exhale* through pursed lips to control the release of air.

*Tip on Mouth Exhale : Exhaling through your mouth gets rid of more carbon dioxide, so the idea is that it reduces air hunger. But if you breathe in and out through your nose during exercise, you will become less sensitive to air hunger long term, and breathing efficiency will improve, delaying breathlessness.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: This breathing technique is believed to balance the body and calm the mind.

  • Sit in a comfortable position. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through your left nostril. Close the left nostril with your fingers. Open the right nostril and exhale. Inhale through the right nostril, then close it, and exhale through the left. Continue this pattern for several minutes.

Square Breathing (Box Breathing): This technique is great for concentration and focus. It involves four stages: inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding. This is a technique the Navy Seals and Special Forces employ. It is called tactical breathing

  • Steps:
    1. Sit in a comfortable, upright position and close your eyes.
    2. Slowly exhale all of your air out.
    3. Inhale through your nose while slowly counting to four, feeling your lungs fill with air.
    4. Hold your breath for a count of four.
    5. Slowly exhale through your mouth (or nose) for a count of four, expelling all the air from your lungs.
    6. Hold your breath for a count of four before inhaling again.
    7. Repeat the cycle for several minutes.

Three-Part Breathing: This deep breathing exercise enhances awareness of the breath and encourages full and complete breathing.


  • Begin by lying down, sitting, or standing, and place one hand on your low belly and the other on your chest.
  • Take a deep breath in slowly through your nose, allowing your belly to fill with air and expand, feeling your hand rise.
  • Continue inhaling into your rib cage, and finally up into your upper chest.
  • Begin to exhale through the nose as if emptying a cup, from top to bottom, contracting the abdomen last to push all the air out.
  • Repeat this deep, full breathing cycle for several rounds, focusing on smooth transitions and filling and emptying your lungs completely.

Bumble Bee Breathing: Known for its immediate calming effect on the mind, this technique involves making a humming sound during exhalation. Here are two videos, one for adults and one for kids


  • Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and a gentle smile.
  • Place your index fingers on your ears  on the cartilage flap over the ear opening. Gently press this cartilage with your fingers to close your ears..
  • Take a deep breath in slowly and as you exhale, gently press the cartilage while making a loud humming sound like a bee.
  • You can also hum silently if you prefer.
  • Repeat this process 5-10 times, feeling the vibration of the sound resonate throughout your head and body.

Breathing to Enhance Digestion

  1. Before Eating: Take six abdominal breaths—inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. This activates the parasympathetic system, enhancing digestive functions.
  • During the Meal: With each bite, chew thoroughly while breathing through your nose. Aim for at least three breaths per bite, or ideally, until the food becomes liquid. This helps stimulate digestion effectively.

No matter what the health concern is that someone may face, having hope and releasing and replacing toxic thinking is foundational to the healing process. Unfortunately, the phrase “it’s all in your head” has been insensitively tossed around for decades making many people understandably resistant to the concept of emotions and thoughts contributing to their physical symptoms. Thankfully, that is starting to change, but we must remember to be sensitive with others and sensitive with ourselves, as again, these emotions and experiences are core to us and carry a lot of weight. 

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.