You’ve heard that before, right? Do you know why we’re told to focus on our breathing when we’re distressed?
According to the fantastic app Headspace, deep breathing exercises have an effect on your state of mind. Whilst you allow the breath to flow naturally, intentionally taking a couple of deep breaths will help ground the mind and create space for growth, thinking and adaptations, especially when stressed.
Headspace say “For hundreds of years, Buddhists, yoga practitioners, and eastern healers have believed that the breath is the foundation of our life force and energy — which is why many meditation practices and yoga classes include a strong focus on deep breathing techniques. When training in Buddhist meditation, we are taught the importance of having correct posture, breathing properly, and preparing the mind.
In a 2018 study from Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity, it was shown that there is a neurological link between respiration and focus. The study showed that those who incorporated intentional and consistent breathing exercises affected the levels of noradrenaline in their brain, which is a natural chemical messenger released when we are challenged, focused, or emotionally aroused. When we are stressed, we produce too much, and when we are sluggish, we produce too little; those who practiced daily breathing techniques produced the sweet spot of noradrenaline and showed exceptional ability to focus.
What’s more, breathing exercises for anxiety have been shown to improve symptoms of depression in addition to reducing the symptoms of anxiety. Many people have unintentionally become shallow breathers, which is a mindless breathing pattern where you inhale through the mouth, hold the breath, and take in less air. Long-term shallow breathing can actually keep the body in a cycle of stress, affecting everything from mental to physical health and even susceptibility to illness. While we shouldn’t stay in a prolonged state of controlled breath, starting the practice for a few moments per day can make you more conscious of your habits outside of the exercise.”
This handy video will help get you started, especially if you’re unsure of how to focus on your breathing (sounds weird, but you know what I mean!)
This calming breathing technique for stress, anxiety and panic takes just a few minutes and can be done anywhere.
You will get the most benefit if you do it regularly, as part of your daily routine.
You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor.
Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.
If you’re lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
If you’re sitting, place your arms on the chair arms.
If you’re sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you’re in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart.
- Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it.
- Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5. You may not be able to reach 5 at first.
- Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from 1 to 5 again, if you find this helpful.
- Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes.
So there we go. Just breathe. And remember, you’re not alone in this. Right now, pretty much everyone, worldwide is going through the same thing as you (lockdown, unable to see family and friends physically). We’re in it together so reach out, talk, tell someone you’re having a bad day, because I bet nine times out of ten, they’ve had or are having a similar day to you.