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  • Writer's pictureAngela Belcher

Breathing Exercises




The Power of Deep Breathing: Unlocking Benefits for Mind and Body

Why pay so much attention to something that happens without conscious thought? We’re going to breathe regardless of what we’re thinking about or doing, right? True enough, but learning how to maximize each breath can have tremendous benefits on the mind and body.


The Benefits of Deep Breathing

The American Lung Association tells us, “Like aerobic exercise improves your heart function and strengthens your muscles, breathing exercises can make your lungs more efficient” (2022). They explain that air gets trapped in the lungs and becomes “stale.” This air must be removed, and the most effective way to do this is deep breathing. Deeply breathing just five to ten minutes per day is enough to help the diaphragm work better and improve oxygen levels. Additionally, deep breathing has been found to “increase comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor, and alertness” (Zaccaro et al., 2018). The authors also found decreased levels of non-sexual arousal, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion as a direct result of deep breathing activities.


How Stress Affects Breathing

Deep breathing is how the lungs are supposed to work, but many of us become so stressed that we breathe short, ragged, quick breaths, “which increase tension and anxiety” (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). Stress can lead to shallow breathing patterns that deprive the body of adequate oxygen and exacerbate feelings of tension and anxiety.


Exploring Breathing Techniques

There are many techniques to try, and none are one-size-fits-all. Here are a few methods you might explore to find what works best for you:


  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Also known as belly breathing, this technique focuses on using the diaphragm to breathe deeply. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Breathe in deeply through your nose so that your abdomen rises while your chest remains relatively still. Exhale slowly through your mouth.

  2. 4-7-8 Breathing: Inhale quietly through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale completely through your mouth for a count of 8. This technique can help calm the mind and reduce stress.

  3. Box Breathing: Inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, and hold the breath out for a count of 4. Repeat this cycle several times.

  4. Alternate Nostril Breathing: Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril, then close it with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril. Repeat this cycle several times.

  5. Pursed-Lip Breathing: Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 2, pucker your lips as if you’re going to whistle, and exhale slowly and gently through your pursed lips for a count of 4.


Incorporating Deep Breathing into Daily Life

To gain the full benefits of deep breathing, try to incorporate it into your daily routine. Here are some tips:


  • Set Aside Time: Dedicate five to ten minutes each day to practice deep breathing exercises.

  • Create a Calm Environment: Find a quiet and comfortable place where you can focus on your breathing without distractions.

  • Use Reminders: Set reminders on your phone or write notes to remind yourself to practice deep breathing throughout the day.

  • Combine with Other Activities: Pair deep breathing with activities like yoga, meditation, or stretching to enhance relaxation and mindfulness.


Conclusion

Deep breathing is a powerful tool for improving both physical and mental well-being. By taking a few minutes each day to practice deep breathing exercises, you can enhance lung efficiency, reduce stress, and promote overall relaxation and alertness. Explore different techniques to find what works best for you and make deep breathing a regular part of your routine to enjoy its numerous benefits.

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