Program Peace is a self-care system that will guide you through more than 100 different exercises designed to help your body to function optimally. Every system in the human body is negatively affected by stress, strain, and negative emotions. These effects accumulate over time. For example, chronic stress dysregulates the nervous system, and impairs the performance of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, among others. The results of these changes are wide-ranging, harmful to our health and our mental well-being. The activities on this website will help you rehabilitate the systems damaged by long-term stress, freeing you from pain, and allowing you to feel comfortable in your own body. Using this system will give you more energy, increased confidence, improved posture, and the ability to breathe freely.
The entire program is available to you on this website at no cost in the form of a book. Use the menu to the left to access the various exercises by “chapter” title. Each chapter addresses a different topic and explains why you should use the exercises, how they can help you, and what you can expect your progress to look and feel like. If the program works for you and you know others that might benefit, please share it with them. Read on for a brief introduction, explaining how the system works.
Welcome to Program Peace.
Jared Edward Reser, Ph.D
How the Program Works
The Program Peace methodology addresses systems all over the body but begins with the breath. The third link on the menu to the left will teach you how to breathe in a way that activates the resting and healing division of your nervous system. The key is to breathe with maximal activation of the diaphragm. All mammals that are in a calm and peaceful state breathe with the diaphragm. However, this changes when they are scared or stressed. Instead they breathe without the diaphragm, relying on the breathing muscles in their upper torso. This non-diaphragmatic breathing promotes chronic hyperventilation, which is the body’s way of preparing itself for a hostile environment. This is often important for survival, but becomes detrimental if it remains active for too long. An animal that experiences ongoing mental or emotional trauma will eventually turn non-diaphragmatic breathing into an ingrained habit. This results in an animal that is constantly in fear for its life. We may not be in fear for our life, but we are breathing as if we are, and this is the source of our chronic stress.
Our nervous system will always prioritize short-term survival over long-term well-being as long as it assumes our environment is dangerous. This is true even though our modern environment rarely involves immediate physical danger. Most humans live and breathe this way all the time. It results in constant muscular, respiratory, and cardiovascular fatigue. This is why so many people endure persistent pain, rapid aging, and an inability to catch their breath.
Like all mammals from mice to monkeys, you and I have learned to stifle and strain our diaphragm. Cumulatively the non-peaceful moments in our lives have programmed us to breathe shallowly. This is known to scientists as “distressed breathing” and it is highly destructive to your physical and mental health. Program Peace is designed to teach you how to completely reverse this by recruiting the diaphragm with every breath. This will help you build diaphragmatic breathing back into your daily habits and behaviors. The process of transitioning from short, shallow breaths to long, deep breaths is depicted in the site logo on the top left corner of your screen. As your diaphragm strengthens from consistent use, its range of motion increases and your neurological control over it improves, allowing you to breathe more deeply and easily. It will take months, but the results are worth it. This is one of the most important changes you can make in your life.
As shown in the figure below, breathing deeply with the diaphragm will slow your heart rate and decrease your stress response.
Before time 1, this person is breathing short, shallow breaths with a high heart rate, and a high stress response. At time 1, this person starts breathing slowly and deeply, and you see a corresponding decrease in heart rate and stress response. At time 2, they resume shallow breathing, causing the heart rate and stress levels to go back up.
Learning diaphragmatic breathing alone is not enough, however. We need to build it into the basic ways in which we carry ourselves, move through the world, and interact with other people, so that our habits and body language support stress reduction instead of triggering the stress response. To do this we need to reprogram a large number of stress-linked submissive behaviors.
All mammals use subordination displays to show submission to more dominant animals as a way to mitigate conflict. Humans use submissive displays too, often entirely unconsciously, for reasons ranging from real submissiveness to a desire to appear friendly. But this has a downside: submissive displays that go on too long cause stress, muscle tension, and shallow breathing. In fact, shallow breathing itself is a display of submission, and an indication of nervousness and perceived risk. In interactions between mammals, the animal breathing more deeply and diaphragmatically is almost always the dominant one.
It is difficult to stop using submissive displays because they become habitual, and others come to expect them from us. Over time, submissive nonverbal body language becomes an ingrained part of our personalities. Chronic suboptimal or submissive signaling is the primary cause of our pain, depression, and anxiety. The activities and exercises you find here will teach you to reprogram these hidden sources of stress, frustration, and aggression. This will improve the way you feel, look, and get along with others.
The Program Peace system works through a very simple physiological mechanism. It guides you to pair diaphragmatic breathing with other nonsubmissive postures and behaviors in order to bring peace to them. This ensures that whenever you use the behavior, you feel relaxed doing it. The majority of this program’s exercises relate directly to the competitive body language used by primates and other mammals. This includes behaviors like opening your eyes wide, straightening your neck, contracting your glutes, and speaking in a bold voice. Below is a list of just a few of the behavioral subroutines that you will be guided to reprogram.
Displays and Behaviors Targeted by Program Peace:
The key to adopting assertive, dominant behaviors is to train your body to feel comfortable engaging in them. You can do this by practicing diaphragmatic breathing while you perform a dominant action. That practice will let you replace the long-standing associations between assertive behavior and the stress response. To take just one example, consider the involuntary placement of your eyes in social situations. Looking above eye level is a clear dominance display. Most people feel very uncomfortable looking upward in public. If you spend 30 seconds on a crowded street looking upward, you will likely become very self-conscious. Your breathing will become shallow and rapid, your heartbeat will speed up, and your stress level will increase. Here is what that looks like:
The figure above shows relaxed breathing that is slow and deep until the person uses an optimal display starting at time 1. Using the display causes their breathing to become more shallow than usual, and you see an increase in their heart rate and stress response. This lasts until time 2, when they cease performing the display.
The unconscious fear of behaving in a dominant manner keeps our body language withdrawn and timid, increasing our susceptibility to anxiety and depression. Over time we come to look at the floor, hunch our necks, and speak in unnaturally high voices, even when alone. But there is a simple solution. If you spend a few minutes a day practicing slow, long, deep breaths from your diaphragm while looking up, then upward gaze will stop recruiting the distressed breathing response. Instead, look up will begin to feel normal, even automatic. You should start by practicing alone, then in public, and transition towards using these optimal displays socially. Practicing for just a few minutes a day, five days per week, can train you to stop looking down. This technique can be used to make all forms of optimal body language feel comfortable and arise spontaneously.
The figure above shows data from a person who has used the Program Peace method of exposing an optimal or dominant display to diaphragmatic breathing. Despite using optimal body language from time 1 to time 2, there is no discernable change in their stress response. Because they have calmed their body’s reaction to the dominant display, it no longer provokes fear, guilt, or stress.
The Program Peace system will guide you through systematically pairing diaphragmatic breathing with many different types of assertive behavior that you would ordinarily find unnerving. This will reorient your body’s response to them from the fight or flight mode, to the resting and healing mode. Treating individual behavioral subroutines in this way will help you come to peace with them. After you master them individually you will be guided to use multiple subroutines together, making confident, stress-free, healthy body language your default. This is the Program Peace method, the best and fastest way to reprogram yourself for peace.
Below is a short description of each of the types of exercises in Program Peace. Use the numbered links to the left of this page to read the full versions of each, including rationale, science, and instructions for each exercise.
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Program Peace by Jared Edward Reser is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.programpeace.com.