How Deep Breathing Can Make You Feel Better
There is a psychological and physiological relief aspect to deep breathing - research published in Physiology & Behavior explores the important associations between the act of sighing and the feeling of relief from anxiety, fears and stress. Results show that self-reported relief following an instructed deep breath was higher than what was felt before the deep breath. Physiological tension decreased following a spontaneous sigh in high anxiety sensitive persons and following a spontaneous breath hold in low anxiety sensitive persons.
So how is it that something we do all day, everyday anyway is also something we can do to combat stress and anxiety? If breathing can calm us down, why are we still so stressed out?
Mindful Breath Work Is Key
Pay attention to how you are breathing, are the inhalations bringing enough oxygen into your body? Are your breathes long and slow or short and fast? Are you breathing evenly and deeply or taking shallow breaths (think about hyperventilating)?
Being mindful about your breathing techniques will help you focus in on how you’re doing, causing you to pay greater attention to the air you are pulling in. Try it now: Take a long, slow inhalation through your nose. Feel it fill your lungs, feel your belly expand. Then, slowly let that breath out through your mouth. Do this three or four times and pay attention to how you’re feeling once you’re done. This is called belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.
By shifting your breathing rate and pattern, you can stimulate the body's parasympathetic response aka the relaxation response. Physical changes that take place when your relaxation response is triggered include:
oxygen consumption decreases
heart rate is slowed
your blood pressure decreases
the tension in your muscles decreases
you may notice a sense of calm
The Benefits of Mindful Breathing
When you breathe mindfully the hypothalamus, which is connected to the pituitary gland in the brain is activated and sends out neurohormones that inhibit stress-producing hormones and trigger a relaxation response.
Deep breathing also helps to sharpen your attention, allowing you clarity and to focus on the task at hand. Researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute found that indulging in focused breathwork affects levels of noradrenaline which is a chemical that when released into the bloodstream - which happens when you are focused or curious - enhances your attention to detail and improves overall brain health by promoting the growth of new neural connections.
Easy Ways to Incorporate More Breath Work Into Your life
It isn’t hard or expensive to get the benefits of mindful, focused breathing. You don’t need any gadgets or to sign up for any classes. Breathing is free and can be done anywhere at any time. Meditation is a wonderful way to begin to incorporate focused breathing into your daily life and we are such big fans of meditation that we’ve produced a podcast called the Mental Health Booster dedicated to guided meditations and breathing exercises to help you reset and find balance - each episode is under 5 minutes so you don’t need to find time in your day, just pop in your ear plugs and hit play whenever you need a mini break.
The Mental Health Booster podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and right here on the Her(B) Life website. Check out the video below for a taste of the podcast.