How many times have you been angry, stressed, or anxious and someone told you to just take a deep breath? Often at times, we write this phrase off as just what you’re supposed to say when you don’t really know how to help. But the truth of the matter is, taking a deep breath is likely exactly what you should do when you’re angry, stressed, or anxious.
Somewhere along the way from childhood to adulthood, most of us subconsciously changed the way we breathe – and not for the better. As babies and children, we naturally breathe deeper. Have you ever noticed how a baby’s belly rises and falls as they breathe in and out? Yet as adults, it’s our chest that rises and falls when we breathe.
Why does this matter? If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, shallow, chest breathing might not help you feel any better – but deep, belly breathing definitely could. This is an easy to follow guide which I have put together on the benefits of deep breathing. I hope you find it helpful.
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Benefits of Deep Breathing – Ultimate Guide!
WHY DEEP BREATHING?
Mindful deep breathing is a proven way to relieve stress that negatively affects your health, well-being, and ability to work out and perform at your best. It’s a simple technique that you can use to consciously evoke the relaxation response. When you breathe slowly your heart rate starts to synchronise to the rhythm of your breathing and your body sends a message to your brain: “You’re calm, you’re safe.”
When your mind is calm and ready for the challenges that lie ahead, your body will be able to perform better, too. If you regularly apply deep breathing exercises, you may start to see benefits such as better resilience, reduced cumulative effects of stress, and improved sleep and overall well-being.
Are you a shallow breather?
While breathing deeply benefits our overall health and wellbeing, the truth is many of us are shallow breathers. Check this out with yourself right now. Turn your attention to your breathing. Do you see anything moving? If the answer is no, you are likely taking shallow breaths. Where there is stress, there is usually shallow breathing – the good news is that with very little effort, deep breathing can become an easy and unconscious practice.
Deep breathing is a great way to feel more relaxed and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. This can be achieved by breathing slowly through your nose in a gentle manner, then slowly exhaling. By doing so, your nervous system is tricked into calming down, which helps a variety of bodily functions such as:
- Boosted energy
- Decreased blood pressure
- Better sleep
- Improved function of the immune system
- Feelings of relaxation
- Less lactic acid in muscle tissue
- Fewer stress hormones being produced
- Balanced oxygen and CO2 in the blood
Deep breathing instructions
If you can count to five and can create two minutes of uninterrupted time, you are fully equipped to learn to breathe deeply.
How about doing a deep breathing exercise right now?
- First, sit upright in a comfortable position, with your hands on your knees and your shoulders relaxed.
- Now, in your mind, make a conscious decision to focus on your breath.
- Close your eyes and exhale completely. Your lungs first need to be empty in order to allow you to inhale fully and deeply.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose for a count of five. Breathe deeply into your lower abdomen. If it helps, picture your lungs expanding with air as you breathe in. As your lungs expand, they push down on your diaphragm causing your belly to expand.
- Once you have taken a good deep breath in, hold in your breath for a count of three.
- Then slowly exhale the air out through your nose (or mouth if you prefer) while counting to six.
- At the end of your exhale, hold once again for a count of three.
- Take another slow breath in through your nose, again counting slowly up to five.
- Remember to breathe deeply down into your belly and let your belly expand as far as is comfortable – there is no need to force it.
You can try this method on the go as well, I certainly use it in every day situations – while working, walking etc.
Repeat this deep breathing exercise 5-10 times, which should only take a few minutes.
- Inhale to a count of five
- Hold for a count of three
- Exhale to a count of six
- Hold once more for a count of three
- Then repeat the above
You can practice longer if you like, just build up to it. When you do this deep breathing exercise, expect your mind to wander, that is what the mind does – when you notice this, simply bring your attention back to your deep breathing and begin your count again.
If you feel comfortable, you can inhale and exhale longer breaths, just start with the above instructions and build up to it. I always add one second on top of the exhales. For example: if you inhale for 7 seconds, the exhale would be 8. Just get yourself into a comfortable breathing pattern, and it will all come natural.
Deep breathing should be slow and gentle – remember to fill the abdomen, not just the chest. A simple way to make sure you are doing this is to place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breath deeply and if it’s easier for you, put your hand on your stomach is rising. Try to be aware of your breath, heartbeat and to release tension from your body. Sometimes it’s easier to lie down rather that sit comfortably in a chair – whatever suits you best.
Make it a routine practice
If you practice this deep breathing exercise on a regular basis, you will notice that it becomes easier to focus on your breathing and eventually you will regularly breathe deeply without having to think about it at all. If you are a really busy person, you may be asking how will have time? Like all practices, you are more likely to be successful if you establish a routine that is realistic for your life.
For example, you could make the decision to take 10 deep breaths first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. You could also make a decision to do 5-10 deep breaths every time you go into a certain room, or at every stoplight, or before every Zoom or MS Teams meeting (or maybe it will be needed more after the meeting.)
Simply tailor this deep breathing practice to what a day in your life looks like. Put sticky notes around as a reminder, or put an alarm on your phone. Again, you will know the best way to remind yourself to breathe…deeply.
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Benefits of Deep Breathing – Final thoughts
Deep breathing is a practice that has many benefits. It’s often combined with yoga, meditation, guided imagery and other relaxation techniques for even more positive results. Try an activity that you think you might enjoy. Learning ways to relax will help you to become more in tune with your body so you can respond to stress in a healthy way.
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you are doing to change your life in the coming days and years! If you have any questions please reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.
Want to go deeper than deep breathing? I recommend the below books to read on Mindfulness, they are wonderful and have been a big influence on my journey – I cannot recommend them enough!
Hello! My name is Adam and welcome to my space on the internet. Here you can find me writing about subjects such as spiritual growth, self-discovery, wellbeing, addiction recovery and mental health. Please connect with me on my journey and join the community!