You may have noticed that changes in mood are often accompanied by changes in breathing patterns. For example, when you’re nervous, your heart rate goes up, and your breathing becomes just a little bit faster. Or when you’re calm and relaxed while reading a book, your breathing becomes slow and deep. In the same way that our mood can affect our breathing, deliberate and controlled breathing exercises can regulate any imbalances of mood, and help calm us down in stressful situations. Breathing exercises are simple to do, don’t require anything but your own body, and can be done anytime, anywhere. They have no side effects, and are safe for anybody to try. This article will introduce 3 basic breathing exercises you can try right now, for a more calm and relaxed mindset!
Disclaimer: The breathing exercises outlined in this article are suggestions meant to help alleviate feelings of short-term stress and anxiety. Please seek medical assistance for any chronic or long-term mood disregulation.
1. Breath focus
Breath focus allows you to concentrate on slow, deep breaths, taking your mind away from any distracting or negative thoughts and feelings.
How to do it:
1. Sit or lie down in a quiet and comfortable location, and close your eyes.
2. Breathe in slowly through your nose, while being conscious of your chest and belly rising as you take in the air. Fully expand your abdomen.
3. Slowly breathe out through your mouth, again making yourself aware of the air as it escapes your abdomen and exits your body
4. Once you get the hang of this, you can incorporate positive imagery or affirmitive phrases that help you to relax, as you do the breathing exercises.
2. Pursed Lip Breathing
While ‘taking in a deep breath’ is often seen as the important part of breathing for relaxation, deep exhales are actually just as important. Exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls our body’s ability to calm down and relax. Pursed lip breathing will extend the length of your exhale, allowing more air to flow in and out of your lungs.
How to do it:
1. First, exhale all the air from your lungs.
2. Breathe in through your nose as normal.
3. Exhale slowly, in a thin stream through pursed lips. Try to exhale for twice the length of your inhale.
3. Belly Breathing (or Diaphragmic Breathing)
Breathing from your diaphragm requires the least amount from your body when breathing. It is the breathing method your body uses when completely relaxed, such as during sleep. Being able to use this method naturally will help your body remain in a state of relaxation and calmness.
How to do it:
1. Lie down in a comfortable position, or sit down and lean back. Place your hand or a tissue box on your abdomen, so you can visualize the rise and fall of your stomach.
2. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and notice as your belly rises. Your chest should remain still.
3. Breathe out slowly through your mouth, for 2 or 3 times longer than the inhale, if possible. Engage your stomach muscles to push that last bit of breath out.
4. Practice daily for this method to become a more natural part of your routine. Try to engage in this exercise 3 or 4 times a day, for up to 10 minutes at a time.
Creating a Routine
Different relaxation techniques will work for different individuals. Try out these different exercises and see what works best for you. Furthermore, picking an exercise and making a routine out of it will increase the effectiveness of its relaxation properties. The key to eliciting a relaxation response from a routine is to shift your focus from the stress to the deeper, calming rythm of your breath. To start, try practicing your exercise of choice once or twice a day, around the same time, between 10 to 20 minutes.
Once you master any of the basic breathing exercises in this article, you could also try out some more advanced breathing techniques, borrowed from yoga practices!